Country Music Makes Me Sad – St Christopher Medal album review

St Christopher Medal – Hoof! (Stereogram Recordings)

My Stereogram journey has now reached the point that I can no longer expect to be surprised by a new release – certainly not when it comes to a second release.

And as ‘Hoof!’ is the second full length from St Christopher Medal, then there’s something directly to compare it with. So fewer surprises perhaps and equally plenty to live up to.

As on ‘Sunny Day Machine’, 2015’s debut, melody infuses every song as the band build on the strengths of the debut . The album was trailed a couple of years back by single ‘Wayne Moon Pilot’ and in a lot of ways that unhurried epic is as good as an exemplar for the album as anything else, particularly the thrilling extended guitar coda.

The focus however has slightly shifted as ‘Hoof!’ demonstrates a more relaxed vibe than the debut as only a handful of the songs have any real urgency. Single and opening track ‘Fallen Angel’ is Exhibit A in this regard underpinned as it is by Kenny Mathieson’s insistent guitar but really only ‘Family Tent’ (with its melodic call back to ‘Satchel Bag’ from the debut) and the pedal steel driven ‘Ties That Bind’ fit that description.

Otherwise ‘Hoof!’ aims for sweeping organic instrumentation rather than rock momentum so there’s an elegant grandeur on songs like ‘The Desert Wind and the Jazz Wolf’ and ‘Baseball Jacket’. Yet, it never feels overdone and there are more intimate moments such as ‘Diablo’ with its evocative plaintive picked guitar and understated backing.

Lyrically principal songwriter Ali Mathieson strives to find poetic moments within the everyday activities – the gentle ‘Country Music’ eulogises ‘In the city/cool rain is pouring down’’ whilst waiting at traffic lights en route to pick up his eldest from Cubs.

It’s a lovely, mature record which is every bit as richly melodic as its predecessor.

And, sandwiched in between STOOR’s abrasive second LP ‘Fleam’ and the Cathode Ray’s upcoming excellent  ‘Heightened Senses’ (due next month), ‘Hoof!’ sounds like neither yet confirms that the label remains on a hot streak in 2019.

Although the record has been available for a few weeks now, the album launch only takes place this Saturday (12 October) at 7pm in the Birnam Arts Centre in Dunkeld. Tickets will be available on the door. Support comes from Good Guy, Good Guy, hank. See you there! 

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