Rock ‘n’ roll is always about the intensity of the emotions: rage, revulsion, lust, pain and yes, yearning. It’s where innocence still exists, steeping in the pining for what you believe will save you—not in the grand sense, but the notion of a hand to hold, someone’s eyes to see yourself in and the idea that you’re the average guy who’ll stare down the odds, loneliness, exhaustion and sacrifice to make dreams real.
Knoxville’s Dirty Guv’nahs understand this from the inside out. Somewhere Beneath These Southern Skies is saturated with raw desire for the attainable, the sting of what isn’t and hope that all can be realized. With a strong gospel undercurrent and frontman James Trimble’s wide-open white boy soul vocals, the Guv’nahs embrace ardor with an unabashed will to realize what should be inherent.
“Can You Feel It” opens with just the vocal roar of doubt in the want, then the sibling rhythm section of Justin and Aaron Hoskins kicks in; Michael Jenkins and Cozmo Holloway’s guitars slash at the melody and enough atmospherics emerge to create a frenzy that pulls you under. Too much too soon? Not enough quick enough? The vertigo of falling for someone is captured like a firefly in a mayonnaise jar, glowing luminescent under glass and seeming to throb in the moment.
There is hormonal urgency aplenty—punctuated by Chris Doody’s Nicky Hopkins-evoking barroom piano—on the horn-slathered “Good Luck Charm” and the rolling pledge of getting it back together that is “Temptation.” Tempered with needing to be more than surface realities, there’s the realization that every second matters in “Live Forever” and fighting through the tough places in the tumbling shuffle “Don’t Give Up On Me.”
Like a less rejectionist S.E. Hinton, the Guv’nahs provide a glimpse into the state of youth, a need to stand one’s ground and the desire for someone to care. Heartland more than Southern, there are bits of drawl and a twang to some of the guitar solos, but this fervor-driven project kicks out the jams in the name of just having enough.
Think a less patchouli-dripping Black Crowes, with thicker tones and less noodling—and you’re getting warm. Euphoric at its best and lightest moments (“Fairlane” sweeps listeners up with a bright, infectious melodic arc), quietly ardent when pressed (“Dear Alice” mines memories in the name of saving what was), the lack of flash reflects what it means to seek one’s destiny in a place where the dream shrinks more and more each day.