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Slaughter Beach, Dog - Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling (Album Review)

Thursday, 28 September 2023 Written by Craig Howieson

Photo: Ashley Gellman

Around the time of 2019’s ‘Safe and Also No Fear’ Slaughter Beach, Dog’s Jake Ewald talked at length about his new found love of Wilco. And while that new fandom did not particularly influence its self-recorded pandemic record follow up — 2020’s stunning ‘At the Moonbase’ — it is certainly noticeable in the considered nuances and sumptuous execution of ‘Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling’.

While ‘At the Moonbase,’ had a reckless alt-indie charm akin to Fred Thomas at his most reflective, ‘Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling’ is an altogether more coherent affair. Sticking more closely to alt-Americana and country than ever before, it bears all the hallmarks of some of America's finest writers. 

Townes Van Zandt is name checked on Summer Windows and some of the same sun-dappled charm of his output is felt throughout here.

Ewald, meanwhile, also understands that a lot of acts that try to imitate Wilco do so poorly. It is those who appreciate the depth and layers of a record such as ‘A Ghost Is Born’ and approach their own writing in a similar manner that truly succeed in carrying the torch.

Having surrounded himself with an exceptional band, tracks such as Float Away have been worked up from acoustic sketches into elaborate and infectious moments teeming with ideas without losing their hooks. Tommy barely exceeds the pacing of a gentle Sunday stroll, but the plod of bass and unadorned piano keys are the perfect staging for Ewald’s voice. 

The real triumph of ‘Crying, Laughing, Waving, Smiling’, though, is not in its musical curation, but the way in which it pairs that music with Ewald’s unique storytelling. These are not high-octane songs, they are an accurate reflection of the often fleeting moments of clarity that make us feel most alive. 

And in a refreshing change of pace for most in the alt-rock world, there is plenty of light within its walls. Henry may have a heartbreaking second half, but My Sister In Jesus Christ is optimistically future-facing. And as Ewald sings “We had good times / We got more to come / We'll get real old / Melt down in the Florida sun” in the wake of a killer guitar solo, it's easy to believe him.  

Following in the footsteps of John K. Samson (if he was to prop up the bar in a honky-tonk), Ewald continues to further establish himself as one of the most compelling writers out there, holding his own with those he holds in highest regard. 

Slaughter Beach Dog Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu September 28 2023 - LEEDS Leeds Irish Centre
Fri September 29 2023 - BRIGHTON Concorde 2
Sat September 30 2023 - LONDON Electric Brixton
Sun October 01 2023 - BRISTOL SWX

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