Don’t Talk About It (Bloodshot/Universal)
The takeaway from Ruby Boots first album since Bex Chilcott, aka Ms Boots, relocated to the USA, signed to Bloodshot and, by the by, heavied up her sound? “Leave me with the trouble baby, I’ll make it through.”
There are other messages – there is a reason love works; there are some equally good reasons why it doesn’t; sex won’t settle that debate; still, it has its good side - but the core point is a celebration of resilience.
The women here aren’t necessarily, or not only, victims of shitheels and lowbrows. They’re also powerhouses of drive and recovery, agents of change, lustful, vulnerable-but-not-weak, angry, prepared to love, ready to leave, and just getting on with getting on.
Knowing this, understanding that Chilcott has been fending for herself long enough – as in, since she was 14 - to know if things are going to get better it’s going to get better by her own hand, makes the occasional roughhouse punches of this album not only understandable but necessary.
And with the grunt of her new band of Texan accomplices, The Texas Gentlemen, Don’t Talk About It really does swing hard from bottom to top when called on.
The piano pounded like a beefed up honky tonk in Believe In Heaven is matched by guitars which don’t so much duel as take turns landing blows, and there’s a slurring disdain in the backing voices which work like a Blackhearts to Chilcott’s Joan Jett.
Even tougher in tone as much as impact is the opening track, It’s So Cruel, where Chilcott’s voice is distorted enough to suggest someone has cranked the bar’s PA just that little bit too far.
Here the just held back drums tease the sneering guitars to go harder if they’ve got the nerve and there’s a Cuban heel swagger to the rhythm for a package that is more Bowery than East Nashville.
Interestingly, this double hit is how the album kicks off, suggesting the eight tracks to follow may continue the rock rather than country journey expected of a Ruby Boots record.
That’s not how it happens, not least because you’ll still find something like Break My Heart Twice which has a classic elegance to its lightly dusted sadness (and its old school title) that is rather more from the Texan school of roots writers. Not to mention the vocal-only, subtly powerful Blue Ridge Mountains-style, I Am A Woman which harks further back still.
But the signal for not-everything-as-expected has been sent and even the sweet, twang and tang of the title track, which slots in straight after the opening rocked up duo, won’t rub that out with its echoes of ‘60s girl group, church bells and all.
Actually, that intersection of ‘60s, ‘70s and something like now, may be down to the fact that Tom Petty appears the figure looming largest over the album.
You might see it overtly in the chiming guitars and pacing of Easy Way Out or the questioning tenor of I’ll Make It Through. It could be in the new wave-ish pep of Somebody Else and Infatuation, which could well have popped up on a late ‘70s Linda Ronstadt album as a gift from him.
Or, if you parse the church, bar and rock room elements in the closing track, Don’t Give A Damn, you may yet hear that strain of the Heartbreakers beneath the confident declarations Chilcott lays on us.
But if you’re going to write about women who won’t back down, that’s fair enough don’t you think?