Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Dustin Welch has returned with his second album Tijuana Bible. It may seem like an odd title but it fits much of the album’s content well. A Tijuana Bible is a term that originated in the 1930s work camps of the Great Depression. They were anonymous pornographic comic strips that many times were take-offs on popular comic characters of the day. They were issued in various forms until the early 1960s.
Welch’s lyrics tend to travel on the dark side of life. Here he plays the part of a devious, mysterious, wicked, and always interesting carnival barker. His stories are more concerned with sinners than saints as he spins his tales of the lost, broken, and fragile.
While his music may move in a folk and Americana direction at times, he is at heart a rocker and sometimes he moves in a fairly hard direction. He accompanies himself on the acoustic guitar, banjo, and gut-string guitar. Some of his backing musicians are electric guitarist Jeremy Nail, violinist Trisha Keefer, keyboardist Scott Bucklin, bassist Steve Bernal, and drummer Eldridge Goins. They are a tight group who can be either subtle or thunderous as the occasion calls for.
From the frantic riffs of the opening track, “Ash & Iron,” which he wrote with his father Kevin Welch, to the wailing of the final, title track, Welch takes you on an interesting journey through his mind and music. He has managed to cloak his stories in pulsating rhythms that provide a fine counterpoint to each other.
The album was recorded in three days with minimal overdubs, which gives it a live feel. There is intensity to his music and the simple recording process served his music well.
Welch has moved in a number of directions during his career, as he has played in a number of bands, including the country band the Swindlers and the west coast Celtic punk band, the Scotch Greens. He has used these experiences to build his style and sound.
Lyrically, Tijuana Bible is not an album for the faint of heart but the catchy, and at times, hook-laden music brings it all back toward the midstream. In the final analysis, if you are looking for something inventive and a little different then this may be an album for you.