Turning the stereotype that country music can only come from the Southern United States squarely on its head, The Divorcees from New Brunswick have been eastern Canada’s favorite honky tonk band for going on 15 years now, and promise to continue to hold that distinction with the drop of their latest record Drop of Blood.
Don’t think of other Canadian-based country and Western artists like Colter Wall or Corb Lund. That music from the central portions of Canada takes on a decidedly cowboy flair. The Divorcees are more creatures of the local dive, singing songs of drinking and heartache. The quick, easy comparison would be to all the cool honky tonk bands playing eight nights a week in Austin, TX (pandemic, notwithstanding). Super tight, well-seasoned, with songs easy to two-step and melt away your cares on a Saturday night to, their twangy, straightforward approach to country music is refreshing.
Drop of Blood sees the return of the band’s founding member and original lead singer Jason Haywood after a 12 year absence, and an extension of their legacy of crafting blue collar country. The simplicity of approach by The Divorcees is their strength. Along with bucking the Canadian stereotype, they also dispel the notion country music must do something wildly innovative to remain cool and relevant.
Sure, that might be the case for some genres of music. But for country, it’s always been about upholding traditions. Three chords and the truth. Besides, exhibiting creativity within rigid confines takes much more imagination than coloring outside the lines just for the sake of it.
At the same time, if you’re used to artists and bands that really stretch the possibilities of lyricism in country while remaining within its sonic borders, the purposeful simplicity of The Divorcees may feel like it’s lacking some depth, and fairly so. This is one side effect of not trying to reinvent the wheel.
At the same time, Drop of Blood also turns in arguably some of the band’s best-written songs to date, especially in the latter portions of the track list. Where the early songs like “Dying Breed” and “Making The Scene” will put you in the right mood sonically, and a song like “Must Be Nice” will appeal to the workaday mentally of average traditional country fans, “The Other Side of the Blue” is a really sad and succulent composition that is also excellently sung. This is followed by the heartbreaking “Too Old To Die Young”—not an entirely new concept, but smartly devised.
Keeping it simple in a way that illustrates the timeless beauty and evergreen appeal of actual country music is what makes The Divorcees so valuable, and strangely, unique. Leave it to a bunch of Canucks to figure this out, when so many rednecks south of the border are either selling their souls to go mainstream, or stretching to be hip in Americana.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7.5/10)