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Music Review: The National Lights – The Dead Will Walk, Dear

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Lyrics: Reflections on the murder of a lover filled with lots of blood, bones and burial imagery. Jacob Thomas Berns’ ability to sing such sadistic words in tender and relaxed tones can be comical…like a slasher movie’s tongue-in-cheek gore. The music is happy enough and the storytelling is poetic enough, however, that you have to really pay attention to pick up on the gruesome subtext on The Dead Will Walk, Dear.

Sound: Light alt country/folk with lots of acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, banjo, mandolin and understated keyboard drones. The mood rarely amps up beyond reserved and whispery and the sonic highlights are the rich and inspired male/female harmonies of Berns and Sonya Maria Cotton. Together, their voices can send chills down your spine, much in the same way a Conor Oberst/Emmylou Harris collaboration can.

Heavy Rotation track: “Swimming In the Swamp”

Medium Rotation tracks: “Buried Treasure”; “O, Ohio”; “Better For It, Kid”

Explicit Lyrics*: none

Recommended: The songwriting on The Dead Will Walk Dear is fascinating, while the musical and vocal arrangements are warm and inviting. I just wish more of the songs developed past a single idea. With 10 songs in 27 minutes, though, this gentle record with a dark undertone never drags.

Grade: B

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