With five albums to its name, The Wagons have become a staple in their native Australia. They released their U.S. debut, Rumble, Shake & Tumble in 2011. Now, Henry Wagons has stepped out of the group that bears his last name to release his first solo EP, Expecting Company?, which is due out early next year (January 22, 2013 in the U.S.).
Wagons is a multi-instrumentalist who plays most of the instruments on the album. The vocals are another matter as six of the seven tracks are duets with guest artists. Names such as Alison Mosshart (The Kills and The Dead Weather), Sophia Brous, Jenn Grant, Robert Forster (The Go-Betweens), Patience Hodgson (The Grates), and Australia’s Gossling may not be household names – Mosshart being an exception – but their vocals bring passion and energy to the tracks and they complement Wagons well.
It is a mini-album at seven tracks but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. “A Hangman’s Work Is Never Done,” which features Hodgson, contains a lot of “gallows” humor (pun intended). It is a menacing song of the relationship between the lead character (the hangman) and his wife. And “I’m in love with Mary Magdalene” is the perfect title for a song about devotion and lust all wrapped up in enticing music.
“Unwelcome Company” is a tune that is somewhere between odd and funny as it deals with pest infestations, a topic not usually associated with music. The sound of “Give Things a Chance to Mend” is a trip back to the country style of the 1960s and Grant’s voice fits right in with the era. “Give Me a Kiss” explores the dynamics of breaking up and “I Still Can’t Find Her” looks at searching in life without knowing exactly what that means.
Oddly, the only song that appears out of place is also the most personal. “Marylou Two” is a re-working of a track from the Wagons’ Rumble, Shake and Tumble album. This is the only track on which he goes it alone vocally as he appropriately sings about being alone.
Expecting Company? is a fine introduction to the music and mind of Henry Wagons outside of his usual group setting. If you are looking for something a little different, then this may be an album for you.