Henry Wagons may come from Australia, but his musical soul is clearly embedded in Nashville, which is precisely where he recorded After What I Did Last Night, his sixth album (albeit his solo debut after five fronting Wagons), working with producer Skylar Wilson.
Quasi-autobiographical, it traces an arc from reprobate to family man who can’t wait to be back home, opening with the contrite morning-after regrets of Cold Burger, Cold Fries, from whence comes the album title, plangent guitar and pedal steel bolstering a drawled deep baritone delivery that’s part Kristofferson, part Nick Cave and part Lee Hazelwood.
The measured pace of Weak Link and its guitar jangle turns accusations of being the fault line in a relationship on their head as he declares that it’s only a weak link that can break the chain, then it’s on to Waitsian junkyard blues King Hit, an amusing tale of being decked for paying too much beer-soaked attention to a guy’s daughter in a bar. The ethereal, hushed Santa Fe provides a total contrast, but then it’s on to honky tonk territory for the chugging Head Or Heart that’s perhaps slightly more Johnny Horton than Johnny Cash.
Slouching through the bluesy wire brushed Anything You Want (“You want a snake, girl, I’ll charm it. If you need weed I’ll farm it”) and blowing harmonica across the southern barroom rock of Tomboy, he somehow finds himself in eastern Europe for the swampty distorted blues of Cowboy In Krakow and the six foot charms of a woman called Chechin “with the wings of an albatross tattooed beneath her breasts.”
Come the slow swayed, steel-streaked As Long As I Breathe such debauched irresponsibility has given way to paternal sentiment, and despite the title and its zydeco swagger, Only Sane Mother F***** would seem to be suggesting that falling in love isn’t madness.
Rolling in a saloon piano, after the rather macho confessions that precede it Only Child is unexpectedly emotionally naked number about growing up alone with no siblings to show him how to be a man or treat a woman, and a plea to his lover to become the family he never had. And, indeed, it seems to have worked with the album closing on piano waltzing honky tonker Melbourne as he sings about leaving America and going home to the city and woman waiting for him. It’s an interesting, entertaining journey, sometimes through darkness, sometimes through light and one well worth sharing the miles in between.
Review by: Mike Davies