REVIEW: Stefan Prigmore’s “River Blood” Floats Around the Deep End


Stefan Prigmore – River Blood

When you name your album “River Blood” you’ve got my attention. When the first line of your first song is “Christ what have I done?” now you’ve really got my attention. Before the next line presented itself I imagined a blood-stained knife slowly retreating upward or perhaps a shaky rear-view mirror with the blue and red lights approaching fast. It turns out that it’s 3 am and I’m wide awake as a flying squirrel. It also turns out that 3 am is the perfect time to listen to a Prigmore album. Do not be fooled, however. Prigmore is not in it for shock value. I believe Stefan when he sings his well-earned, sun-faded asphalt rasp.

“Taming Monsters” opens up our journey with just the right amount of less-is-more production and feel on Clay Parker’s jangly electric guitar phrasing and Whiter-Shade of Pale-era Hammond organ. This is where the real wizardry happens. We find ourselves back in time in a Van Morrison-meets Blaze Foley time portal, gazing into the darkened room of a man looking back on all the wasted years. In his stone despair, he chooses not to take his own life but to carry forward. Lines like, “My shoulder fits this yoke. Of the work, my will can hold. It’s not that I’m frightened. But it’s a strange and foreign road” allow us to float around in the deep end without having to know what the bottom feels like.

“Last Night I Had A Dream” picks up the mood, casting welcome sunshine with Ryan Harris delivering nostalgic slide guitar weaving in and out of Clay Parker’s jangly rhythms. Despite the criminal narrative, we all have a little Bonnie and Clyde inside us who’s willing to go along for the ride.

“Brazos in My Bones” reveals the dark and storied past of Prigmore’s great uncle, who disappeared two men down a well for stealing his boat. It is unclear who did any jail time, if any, or if the bodies were ever recovered. Nevertheless, we get clues, “if you drive down 916 long enough, you’ll come to a burned-out shack. Peach trees all gone wild in the yard, and a filled-in well out back.”

The dark horse of the album for me is “Winter Song” with opening lines, like “I hope this heater’s gonna hold, it’s barely Christman, and she’s coughing like a troll. A little heat. A little hope could help me lift this load.”

The record finishes nicely with two live tracks showcasing Stefan’s livelier and lighter side, rendering the experience worthy of the price of admission.

Perhaps Stefan’s greatest strength is his Prine-like ability to transport the listener to the bottom without transforming himself or the listener into a victim. I imagine River Blood as a favorite for the firm-handshake-modern-day traveling rodeo man. Someone who lives out of a leather bag and isn’t looking down at their phone when they walk downtown. Ultimately, this record is for storytellers, travelers, late-night gamblers, street-wise professors, and anyone not afraid to stick their thumb out for a ride. I like that.

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