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Various Artists We Are Only Riders – The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project Review

Compilation. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

As an introduction to Jeffrey Lee Pierce, this is a very good record indeed.

David Quantick 2010

The Gun Club, in their time, were an uncomfortable sounding band, too ramshackle to be swamp blues, too emotional to be goth. Singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce was an impassioned figure, wild and long-haired, howling songs called She’s Like Heroin to Me and Death Party.

Respected by their peers, The Gun Club to most sounded like an uncomfortable midway point between The Cramps and The Bad Seeds, but their influence has grown since Pierce’s death in 1996. Now we have this collection of songs demoed by Pierce and collaborator Cypress Grove, and enhanced and re-interpreted by artists as diverse as Nick Cave and Debbie Harry. Former Cave associate Lydia Lunch is here, as is Bad Seed Mick Harvey, and a duo who rarely stray far from the same influences as Cave, Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell. 

The results are, unsurprisingly, all a bit Nick Cave, which is not a bad thing, as these days his mixture of Lee Hazlewood, Muddy Waters, swamp rock and country death songs is pretty much a genre of its own. So Cave’s excellent version of Ramblin’ Mind may be somewhat mirrored by Lanegan’s take on Constant Waiting, but it makes for a consistent album. Debbie Harry is excellent on Pierce’s almost chirpy Lucky Jim, and The Raveonettes go all Mazzy Star on Free to Walk.

A (sensible) insistence on keeping the covers related to the sessions project combined with the fact that there aren’t that many songs here means that some people may feel a bit short changed, but as an introduction to Jeffrey Lee Pierce, as well as a whole chunk of American-esque music, We Are Only Riders is a very good record indeed.

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