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Strychnine Dandelions

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Album Review

Combining the talents of Greg Cartwright and Coco Hames seems like such a no-brainer that it feels like destiny. Cartwright's proven himself as the leading heartbroken poet of garage punk with the Reigning Sound; Hames has displayed all kinds of moxie and songwriting prowess as the leader of the Ettes. They got together when Cartwright produced the Ettes' album Do You Want Power in 2009. Sensing a strong musical kinship, they decided to record a single under the name the Parting Gifts and it went so well that it seemed natural to make an album, 2010's Strychnine Dandelion. Calling in the rest of the Ettes and some of the Sound as a backing band (along with some friends like the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach), Cartwright and Hames rock, croon, cajole, and swagger through 15 songs that will thrill fans of both artists and fans of garage rock everywhere. Most of the tracks are written by Cartwright and they have all the hard-won wisdom and desperate melancholy of his best work; hearing him spill his guts on songs as raw as “Strange Disposition” is almost transcendent. Along with the busted-up jams, he drops one of his most romantic and touching songs yet (“Shine,” which sports the achingly sweet line “I tried to read your palm/Just so I could touch your arm”) and generally uses the occasion to show off a slightly more sensitive side. He’s already proven that he can write top-notch songs for girls to sing (witness the Mary Weiss album Dangerous Game) and Hames does his "Born to Be Blue" with girl group-ready soul and fire. Her songs for the record fall just below his, but there’s no shame in that. “My Mind’s Made Up” is a crackling country-rocker, “Don’t Stop” burns with a barely controlled fury, and the Cartwright-sung “My Baby Tonight” is a rollicking and smoky late-night ballad. She more than holds her own against one of the great songwriters of the day. Taken together, the album stands proudly with the best work of either artist and the only complaint is that they didn’t duet more. The only song they share vocals on, “Bound to Let Me Down,” is the highlight of the album. Still, the pairing of the two garage titans makes for a thrilling album and is hopefully just the first of many future collaborations.


Formed: 2009 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

The Parting Gifts marks a raucous meeting of the minds between two major figures in the contemporary garage rock movement -- Greg Cartwright, founding member of Reigning Sound, the Compulsive Gamblers, and the Oblivians, and Coco Hames, singer and guitarist with the Ettes. Cartwright and Hames first worked together in 2009, when Cartwright was invited to produce the Ettes' third album, Do You Want Power. Cartwright and Hames discovered they were musically compatible and decided to collaborate on...
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Strychnine Dandelions, The Parting Gifts
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