Streets of Aberdeen by Hellbound Glory

 

Mere months after Hellbound Glory’s album release of Pinball, here is Streets of Aberdeen. Leroy Virgil, the singer/songwriter of the band, tells the story of the serial killer, Billy Gohl, from the port town of Aberdeen, Washington. I remember the first time he played the title track for me in 2013; it was like nothing I ever heard from him, this amazing evolution of his storytelling. Since then, I notice the Aberdeens of the world; the city of Aberdeen, Scotland is the original, who bequeathed its name as Aberdonians left to settle all over the world.

This album is another side of the Hellbound Glory persona. We have the original bar-fightin’, drug snortin’ outlaw hellcat who bounced around like a pinball. This is the introspective man who survived those party years and has the ability to straddle both worlds to tell their tales. It’s best appreciated with a bottle of good brown liquor and a set of quality headphones.

With his version of Where Did You Sleep Last Night he again slays the cover game; his voice mixes fatalism and placidity as much as Leadbelly. I researched the etymology of the song and there are many interpretations dating back to the 1870s. Leroy’s version honors the earliest train renditions:

My girl my girl don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines,
Where the sun never shines
I shiver the whole night through 

Her husband was a hardworking man
Who lived about a mile from here
His head was found in a driving wheel
But his body never was found

White girl white girl don’t lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines, in the pines,
Where the sun never shines
I shiver the whole night through

White girl white girl
Where will you go
I’m going where the cold wind moans
In the pines, in the pines,
Where the sun never shines
I shiver the whole night through

Big Time is an old Excavator’s song (his band before Hellbound Glory) and as much as I like the new well-dressed version, except for that goofy intro, the lyrics still have that rawness that carves right through you:

She moved up to Tacoma when she was just nineteen,
With a high school diploma from a little town of Aberdeen
She never touched the hard drugs, and she barely touched the booze
And if it weren’t for OxyContin, she’d never touch the likes of you.

Small Township is another gem getting its proper release on this album. As a musician who tours all over this country, he’s heard the stories, gossip, and drama, weaving them all into a song representing anywhere USA. Leroy has been telling the tales of pills and parties for years and not enough people know of him. He’s this generation’s Pete Seeger but Nashville is too bedazzled to pay attention. How many “country” songs about beer and trucks and chicks can there be? If that’s your thing, go check out Malt Liquor on youtube, he slays that category as well.

Cold Dark Summer Day breaks my heart. It’s the goodbye song to a love that no longer nourishes. It’s not about blame, it’s not about fault, it’s when you can’t see the sunshine anymore.

Irene Goodnight is another cover gem by making it his own. The sound of the creaky rocking chair is my favorite unexpected effect on the album.

No Service is about the pain of miscommunication in a relationship.

Just a Shell of A… showcases Leroy’s talent in putting words to the pain of watching the people you love most slowly disappear.

Oil and Opium is one of the best songs on the album. We will never hear the word equilibrium the same way again, and the part where he is falling down that deep dark hole is one of those perfect moments in music where you feel it as well as hear it.

I turned eighteen 2001
Put down my pen
Picked up a gun
I traveled towards the rising sun
Land of oil and opium

At night I think of things I’ve done
Sometimes I wonder just who won
We blew that place to kingdom come
All for oil or opium

God won’t you save my soul
I feel like I’m falling down this deep dark hole

I lose my equilibrium
My heart it pounds just like a drum
All through my head I hear a hum
The sound of oil and opium

You’ll turn this page from back to front
Put down this pen
Picked up my gun
God don’t you send another son
To die for oil or opium

At the end of the album, he offers another version of Aberdeen stripped down and most likely recorded on a cell phone; some of his best work is captured with everyday objects. I hear a lot of songs on the radio using computer programs to make the singers and musicians sound good, there’s a real sense of pride knowing he doesn’t need any of that.

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