With a jaded punk sense, Big Harp infuse their outlaw country stories with grit and self-deprecating wisdom. The husband and wife duo offer, in the eleven songs on “White Hat,” a gothic landscape with tales of regret, frustration, insight and plain, infuriating bad luck. These are songs that recognize that the past contains both our best moments, our boldest actions, and the fuckups that follow us into middle age.
Guitarist Chris Senseney helps maintain a gritty subtext to the songs, giving even the more straight ahead honk tonk tunes a rocking bite. On bass and with a memorable, haunting voice, Stephanie Drootin-Senseney personifies most the artsy, fumbling losers in songs like “All Bets Are Off.” Chris sets the tone, though, with the wonderfully jaded and grizzled “Nadine,” a character who also shows up in the closer.
While much will be made of the band’s wry use of punk and experimental colors (and attitude), brilliant songs like “Here’s Hoping” and “Let Me Lend My Shoulder” are priceless on their own as great C & W heartbreakers. These are songs everyone can relate to, and anyone could have written if they paid attention to the moments in their lives when decisions are made and lessons learned, for lasting good or ill.
It is a tough task to be aware of the clichés of a genre and yet employ them with sincerity and heart. Big Hand not only have that mastered, but they have what the best artists have: humility and daring, reverence and a willingness to shatter the valuable glass when necessary. “White Hat” is memorable, funny, and will break your heart, like a good night out with old friends who are still kicking it, but starting to look a little silly doing so.