Cowboys are back in vogue.
Characters who don ten-gallon hats are reclaiming the spotlight as the Western walks through those double-hinged doors and across Netflix accounts everywhere. And if Spotify were around in the 1800s, Chains Are Broken would definitely show up on many a gunslinger playlist.
The sixth album from California-hailing threesome, The Devil Makes Three, Chains Are Broken is a bluesy trip that’d be most at home sung ‘round a campfire. But fear not: members Peter Bernhard, Lucia Turino, and Cooper McBean aren’t the shady wranglers looking to pick pockets from unsuspecting victims. Rather, these three that the Devil made are here to regale life-worn travelers with their own tales that range from the sacrifices made in the name of freedom to the duality in the nature of men.
The titular track, “Chains Are Broken,” is, unsurprisingly, all about self-liberation. The guitars twang evenly as Bernhard sings about teaching a previous oppressor a lesson after he’s figured out the key to his own freedom. It was a toxic relationship, to be sure, as “[they] used to take pills and hope to die.” Now he’s an unchained man made clearer by hindsight’s wisdom, leaving his previous tormentor in more pain than he ever was.
Yet despite the subject matter, the rhythm of the song remains upbeat. Heck, one could even argue that Bernhard sounds just near-cheerful. It’s the same with “Pray For Rain”–an Icarus-heavy song about the consequences of progress–as well as “Deep Down,” in which a man confesses to the darker side of his soul. If one were to listen on tempo alone, the album may be mistaken for happy-go-lucky bluegrass.
This is where The Devil Makes Three are the true masters of their craft. The heart of blues music is fooling shallow listeners into thinking everything’s okay. In turn it resonates with a more thoughtful crowd who understands something’s just not right. Specifically,Chains Are Broken speaks of American mores to the more pensive that seek Western promises and realize that achieving them isn’t easy. In fact, they shouldn’t be easy. Self-growth is dependent on taking culpability for those darker sides; freeing yourself means pinpointing self-destructive habits and letting them go. It’s the cowboy ideals: take charge and start fresh.
It’s very telling that the cowboy is in vogue. The need for reinventing oneself through the breaking of individual chains is more apparent in the Western trend than the reappearance of fringe in retail stores. Chains Are Broken takes the cowboy way–or rather the freedom it upholds–and venerates it with song. It’s a veneration with much faith behind it, something that very seldom go out of style.