Moriarty are one of the more unique sounds out there today. How often do you hear of a band that boasts a French, Swiss, American and Vietnamese nationalities? Hearing the quintet play their signature sounds would be as aurally pleasing and varied as hearing them discuss their dinner options for that evening. Since forming in 1995, they have recorded six studio albums, and their latest one, Epitaph, is typical of their folk/blues/country signature sound, but this is a band that has such a rich musical background that they can produce the same type of songs without losing their freshness.
This particular album, however takes a while to get going. Title track When I Ride, though pleasingly dark and bluesy, lacks the confidence that might be required of an opening song, and the two after that, Reverse – Anger and History of Violence, follow suit. It’s not until Long Live the (D)evil that Epitaph truly lights the blue touch paper. Rosemary Handley, the lead singer for Moriarty, has a voice that can handle the dual responsibilities of country and blues, but her voice is served better in the more bluesy songs off Epitaph, and Long Live the (D)evil is a prime example of this. That being said, the song introduces a harmonica (provided by Thomas Puéchavy) that undercuts the blues with a bit of country, making this song the standout track on the album.
Variety and combinations are a prominent theme of Epitaph. The various disciplines of music at play here – folk, country and blues – mean that every song on the 13-track album manages to be wildly different from the last while incorporating the same elements. It’s no mean feat, and it makes for quite the entertaining album. Some songs are slower and more melancholic, like G.I. Jesus and Diamonds Never Die, but some commit to the swing and lilt of Irish folk. May Be a Little Lie is performed in 6/8, and it is emblematic of the cosmopolitan nature of the band and their ability to be completely versatile in their work. Special mention must go to Back in Town, which flips between a blues and country song in a bizarre chalk and cheese union, and as a result can’t help but be quite memorable.
Epitaph finishes quite interestingly, too. The penultimate track, Fire Fire, reintroduces the piano elements from When I Ride and other songs from earlier on in the album. It also has a bit more of an upbeat energy than most on the album (which are more mellow and melodic) and would make for a strong finish to a closing track. In fact, it’s not quite why this is song number 12 and not song 13. Long is the Night gives an insight to this, serving as the epilogue to Fire Fire’s climax, and it actually fits in better with the overall feel of the album. The most interesting part about Long is the Night is that the song (and therefore the album) decides to end on a 6th, giving it a cliffhanger feel and leaving the listener wanting more.
While Epitaph doesn’t hit its stride till a few songs in, it’s a fascinating blend of styles which are more closely related than you would imagine. Its versatility is its main strength, giving us 13 unique songs that are all part of the same family, and if variety is the spice of life, then Epitaph is a Mexican pizza soaked in extra hot peri-peri sauce and covered in jalapenos.
‘Epitaph’ is out now on Air Rytmo. The full track-listing is as follows…