Spurs #1 is the most ambitious project to date from Los Angeles-based indie-country ensemble Run Downhill, conceived as a soundtrack for a graphic novel. This is a novel approach to say the least to frame these five excellent period pieces.
Spurs #1 is like a soundtrack for the Joads from The Grapes Of Wrath as rustic dustbowl puritanism ("Unbreakable Man") gives way to the spacious Mojave Desert spiritualism of "Prelude" (although "Prelude" comes first. Perhaps they're leaving California.) Even without having read the comic, I'd say that Spurs #1, both the words and the music would appeal to fans of Sergio Leone's classic Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns as well as their Morricone soundtracks.
Of course, the whole concept breaks down if either the music or the graphic novel isn’t any good but that is not the case with Spurs #1. The album is lavishly realized with clean and clear production capturing strong performances and songwriting. There's a veritable country orchestra present with signature pedal steel guitar, as well as violins, banjos, mandolins, harmonica, honky-tonk piano and a choir of cowboy angels. The mood is of a slow country burn for fans of Lee Hazelwood, Mazzy Star, The Handsome Family or The Everybodyfields.
Like The Handsome Family whose song "Far From Any Road" was used as the theme song for the backwoods psychodrama True Detective, Spurs #1 seems to hint at the waking reality of salt flats and saloon towns evaporating like a heat mirage, revealing a land of chaos and confusion, perhaps mining a similar psychic territory to Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. Spurs #1 seems more like McCarthy than True Detective, however, as this EP stays rooted in the Earth, making me think of some family melodrama like Dallas, as well as cowboys and gull wing doors.
The cross-promotion in this instance worked. I will undoubtedly run down a copy of the 48-page first issue of Run Downhill's graphic novel and play these rapturous country waltzes as I skim the panels. You'd be advised to do the same.
A+ for ambition!