Album Review: Expecting Company? [EP] by Henry Wagons
Fairly Good, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 70 Based on rating 7/10
As the leader of the Australian Americana band the Wagons, Henry Wagons always has romanticized the American South and West, but on his solo EP debut Expecting Company? he gets to indulge himself in a way he never has before: he gets to create a roundabout tribute to Lee Hazlewood's hazy, lazy cinematic dreamscapes of the American West. All but one of the seven songs on this EP are duets and only one is with a male. That would be "I Still Can't Find Her," a song co-written and sung with Go-Between Robert Forster, but the pair still manage to create a dust-speckled widescreen vista on their collaboration, one that fits neatly next to the five female duets here.
Henry Wagons's debut solo album is a slim but interesting collection of duets that are - like his work with his band Wagons - rootsy, genre-jumping and occasionally psychedelic and hard-rocking. The Aussie singer goes for an alt-country noir vibe, ground that (at least around these parts) has been better covered by Neko Case and the Sadies, to name a few. That said, it's easy to fall for his almost too perfect, mellow country duet with Jenn Grant (Give Things A Chance To Mend) and the quirky Give Me A Kiss, featuring Helen Croome's shockingly childlike voice and what sounds like an Omnichord solo.
The Aussie frontman of the Wagons band takes solo billing on this 23-minute, 7 song EP. As its title implies, he is joined by guests, all but one of which is a female vocalist. With a baritone that finds its heart in rumbling Johnny Cash/Nick Cave drama and an edgy version of Americana, Wagons gallops through the opening “Unwelcome Company” with the similarly styled Alison Mosshart, on loan from the Kills, adding more shades of gray.
“I’m in love with Mary Magdalene!” Henry Wagons bellows early on his new duets EP, Expecting Company? Of course he is. The Australian singer approaches country music not as a musical genre, but as a cultural milieu to be exploited for its dark amorality. As on previous album with his band Wagons, the keys are uniformly minor, the subjects dark and gritty, the stakes always Biblical.