Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, Jan 1st, 2021

Idiot Grins: Thoughts & Prayers

Idiot Grins
Thoughts & Prayers
(Snug Harbor Records)

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One certainly wants to love an album that opens with a song called “Satan Is Real.” Americana rock and soul band Idiot Grins’ 4th full-length album is a song-for-song recreation of the Louvin Brother’s 1959 classic Satan Is Real, that they have titled Thoughts & Prayers. Here the Oakland California band of piano/organ player Mike Conner, Evan Eustis on bass, mandolin and vocals, John Hansen singing, Michael Melgoza playing drums and Randy Strauss on guitars gives it a go with a stripped-down guitar/piano/bass/drums and what they call “blood harmony.” Does the experiment work? Thoughts & Prayers will not be for everybody’s taste, that’s for damn sure.

Songs like “The Christian Life,” “He Can Be Found,” and “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night” are plodders, as one would come to expect from this kind of country-gospel stuff. And while certainly, these Idiots do manage some superb blood harmonies (which is about the best thing I feel about these tunes), I dare say, I might have to commit sacrilege (especially given this weighty subject matter) to declare that most of the Louvin Brother’s songs are ok at best; there’s no really outstanding songs here for me.

There are highlights of musicianship though. A flicking mid-tempo “Are You Afraid To Die,” and the more upbeat (at least musically) “Dying from Home, And Lost,” and “The Drunkard’s Doom,” all feature Strauss’s fine playing, with “Doom,” also informed by Conner’s expert piano playing.

The last tune, “I’m Ready To Go Home,” features the best lead vocal of these dozen, on the best tune here. I applaud Idiot Grins for taking on what is considered a classic. I just fail to see what it is.

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Idiot Grins: Thoughts & Prayers