Brandon Bowers - All Graves Must Be Dug By Hand (2010)


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About the album:
"All Graves Must Be Dug By Hand", the first solo effort from Smoking Spore guitarist Brandon Bowers, features fifteen dissonant tracks of Texas garage folk. The album was recorded out-of-studio in two primary locations: a warehouse in Tomball, Texas, and his childhood home after tornadoes dropped trees on it during hurricane Ike. The instrumentation moves from apathetic to upbeat, and the improvised tracks give the album an appeal that won't disappoint fans of Bowers' other efforts with drummer Billy Sullivan in Smoking Spore. Eerie, ambient spoken word tracks and a despairing live-in-studio rendition of the traditional piece "House of the Rising Sun" are added bonuses to this garage folk opus.

Produced, mixed, and engineered by Brandon Bowers.
The album cover photo was taken in a South Texas cemetery and inspired the album's title track.
Drums on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, and 15 by Billy Sullivan (Smoking Spore, Made in Vain).
Banjo on track 5 by Brad Johnson.
All other instruments/vocals by Brandon Bowers.

Track Listing:
1. Introduction
2. Gas Baptist
3. Bug Collection
4. Colors
5. Suicide Sonnet
6. Tee Shirt
7. All Graves Must Be Dug By Hand
8. Shreveport
9. A Thousand Letters
10. When Trails Fork
11. Snakehead
12. Bad Aim
13. House of the Rising Sun
14. Lending and Spending
15. I Let You In

For lyrics and recording notes, click here.


"As the man behind the breathtaking, heavy-psych jams of Smoking Spore, Brandon Bowers’ solo debut is a rough diamond.
      Recorded out-of-studio in two Texan locations – the latter being in the remains of Bowers’ childhood home, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ike – makes this an exceptionally personal record, and one that isn’t without its fair share of haunting moments.
      Halfway between the gruffly, nicotine pipes of Mark Lanegan, and the baritone vocals of Brad Roberts (Crash Test Dummies), Bowers’ dusty delivery, benefits from keeping things simple; such as the eastern-tinged blues of ‘Suicide Sonnet’, where he talks about finding “ peace and happiness six feet underground,” with very little fanfare.
      Among the standout tracks is the organ-fused irony of ‘Tee Shirt’, the howling guitar squeals of ‘Gas Baptist’ and the reflective heartbreak of a failing relationship in ‘A Thousand Letters’. Hushed, sombre, and at times incredibly moving, All Graves Must Be Dug By Hand, is as much about freedom and release, as it is about artistic expression." - Chybucca Sounds

"Brandon Bowers here is a loner/downer folk-rock artist. You may be aquainted with his guitar work alone, as he also plays with the stoner/psych instrumental outfit Smoking Spore. Here his gruff and grumbly vocals tell tales of dark and somber happenings. I can't say if they are only stories or if they are true tales told of a darker existence. For example, the title track is made even more chilling being that there's a photo of the graveyard told of in the lyric of the song right on the front of the album!
     Yes, the title track... its lyric has our man walking down the street of a lonely town after his car breaks down and coming across the aforementioned graveyard bearing a sign reading "All graves must be dug by hand". Soon the lyric's stoyteller is staying in that town and says, "...I should be on my way, but now I'm diggin' graves, one for you, one for me, and one for your new lover... that makes three". Here the song ends. Most of the songs are bent this way.
      "Shreveport" is what might be called a "single" here with it's Eagles-like guitar breaks at each chorus. It's a tale of a man on the road who won't let speeding keep him from his love in Shreveport. "If it's allright with you I'll speed-along, those speeding signs won't keep me from your arms" ...goes the chorus, and yet for all that warm sentiment there's still a dark edge in this love song. I say this because what we have here is a full album's worth of darkness... of many flavours.
     Right after that song comes "A Thousand Letters" where the lyrics say "...I wanna stick my head in a plastic bag..." and then goes on to say his friends say "You should better yourself" in case he'll meet someone new.  I won't go on quoting lyrics because you have to hear this song for yourself. I'll just set down the last lyric here for you to go over ..."Gonna wind this guilt 'til the string's in tune, gonna carve a hundred circles until I see the moon, gonna work real hard 'til I break my back, gonna write a thousand letters 'til I get you back".
      Then comes "When Trails Fork" that starts "When I said I'd never leave 'til my deathbed, ...I didn't know you'd hit the trailhead ...and run as fast as you could..." , ...our man wonders "do I wait or enter the woods?" going after his love. On chorus here Brandon's voice hits levels of Gothic deep. Dark downer vibes hit hard here, and then a beautiful guitar break pulls you, briefly, out of those depths. But as soon as it starts it seems to end, and the lyrics take you to where "trails fork, and angels resort to the airports...", and our lyricist's heart crashes. "Oh my soul is bent and broken inside, my troubles don't know where to hide, ...I feel I lost my way, but it's you who left my side..." goes the chorus, in that super-deep and dark voice that could send chills through the heart of a saint. This could be a summing-up of this whole album's vibe, ...deep loss and dark corners await you here. Are these tales from the heart, ...or just phantasms of the mind?  I guess only Mr. Bowers knows, ...and maybe we're better off not knowing the truth here?
      "Bad Aim" tells the tale of a "cop" accidentally shooting a boy on a fishing day while trying to kill a snake in a tree. The tale is told in a cold matter of fact sense,...although the chorus calls for a just God to send the sherriff "straight to hell".  It's a song without a happy ending, except that "at least that ol' snake got away". Cold pervades the whole of this album, one that some might mistake for old "murder ballads", except that the only "traditional" song here is a cover of "House of The Rising Sun".
         "I let you in" is a beautiful song to end with. Yes, another dark lost love song, but this time with a nice spanish-tinged electric guitar middle piece....the "B-Side" to that Shreveport single, in my mind. These two songs are as dark as Nick Cave, and yet highlight the instrumental prowess of Brandon Bowers.   Here is a song of remorse, ...the remorse felt by a man who trusted an unworthy mate with his heart. Probably the ultimate song of this album's darkness, ...and here with a fine and accomplished solo in it's center. No there's, yet again, no happy ending.....but this is the finest "open ended" tale found here.  The wisest song to end such an album with.  Perfect darkness, ...and a fine guitar piece also!
        So, if you are in a mood for "murder ballads" and love those dark and deep gothic vocals, here is a shadowy prize for those in the right mood. Just be ready for it's sadness."- Psychatrone Rhonedakk


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