Hauntingly sober and uncompromisingly melancholic in certain spots, the vocal harmony conjured up by country duo Steel Blossoms in their new single “Revenge” is perhaps the most striking of any on their self-titled debut album, and although it’s only one of three key elements comprising the fabric of the track, there’s no getting around its importance to the song’s structure. “Revenge” features an instrumental melody that is at times bleak at best, but through the sensuous vocals of Sara Zebley and Hayley Prosser, this single never devolves into an overwhelmingly somber territory mostly inaccessible to the casual fan of Americana.
The music video for “Revenge” is arguably as dark as its soundtrack is, but even at its most captivating moments, the song itself is always the most alluring component of the piece. I like that Steel Blossoms didn’t overthink the premise for this video in the same way that a lot of their mainstream Nashville contemporaries would; by keeping it simple, this pair steers clear of an overindulgent visual experience unbecoming of a group with their kind of talent. It’s easy to put together something glossy and groove-laden, but with this release, I think they were trying to create something just a bit more socially meaningful and aesthetically provocative.
I think that, in more ways than one, “Revenge” is probably the most instrumentally evocative song on the whole of Steel Blossoms’ eponymous LP, but it definitely doesn’t sit beside any lightweights in the tracklist. Alongside this eerie ballad we find ‘grassy influences ala “Kentucky’s Never Been This Far from Tennessee,” “Trailer Neighbor” and “You’re the Reason I Drink,” each of which shows off a different layer of their collective personality, but it is in this song that I really believe we get to experience them at their most unguarded, vulnerable and approachable.
Much like the highly-experimental (and criminally underrated) Screaming Trees’ LP Uncle Anesthesia, we’re seeing Steel Blossoms through a uniquely darkened lens in “Revenge” that to some extent tells us a lot more about their artistry than any other track on their rookie album does. It would be interesting to hear how they play this particular song live; personally, I think they could easily perform it in an even more minimalistic format and, provided the harmonies were just as stinging, make it work in an intimate setting or a large concert hall just the same. I’ll have to find out by seeing them for myself, and I doubt that I’m the only critic hoping to do so in 2020.
Tailor-made for the discriminating country and bluegrass fan in all of us, Steel Blossom’s “Revenge” is definitely a worthwhile listen this December and a cornerstone composition of their official studio debut. They’ve got a really great formula they’re working with in this track, and personally I would really like to hear them experiment with a similarly-stylized blueprint in the near future. Few indie country acts are as willing to think outside the box as these two talented young women are, and that alone makes their output a really great follow this season.