ALBUM REVIEW: Amigo The Devil – Born Against

There are many ways unironically describe the last year or so of human life in a manner we can all appreciate. A lot of us use sarcasm and deflection as a means to cope, and it shows. We may become numb to our own reality based on a lot of loss and sadness, and the mass psychotic break the world seems to have suffered. If you are here reading these words, hopefully,you are looking for an escape from the mundane in some good music. Music is here for you, both as a hug to say “it’s gonna be OK,” but also to commiserate with someone who has been there through the muck, just like you. Danny Kiranos, a.k.a. Amigo The Devil has found a foothold in our musical diet, a needed figure to tell the unpleasant truths about that muck and mire we need to learn from, or just relate to. He asks us to look with him and at ourselves too. He does this to a bold effect on his new album, Born Against (Liar’s Club Records, Regime Music Group).

Following the stripped-down aesthetics of 2018’s Everything Is Fine (Regime Music), gets downright expansive and spacious at times. Given the chance to stretch out, he gets to paint his macabre lyrical pictures against a backdrop that is downright sunny. However, don’t mistake upbeat tracks for happy, snappy, and bursting with joy. Those feelings do come out in moments, but it’s the opposite poles in which these tunes traverse memory and mood. Oddly, he seemed to come upon this by accident and surely with no formula. In our interview with the artist, he told us they actually recorded and planned a much more ambitious sounding album, and dialed it back about 50% because he thought maybe it was a step too far, even for him.

While there are many instances of vulnerable, broken-soul, life-weary Troubador torchyness, many of these tracks rise to a slow boil sonically, with growing instrumentation, bent to either foam over the top or pull back at just the right moments. Sure, we toss genre tags around like Dark Folk, Americana, and Roots music, but those are terms that make journalists drool and get hype, and publicists jobs easier. Most of these songs could work in any genre with a louder guitar and a different beat. What Danny does with a song after he writes is just as important as exactly how he got here. Bear that in mind as you listen. A lot of these tracks will work just solo for voice and small instrumentation just like the majority of his catalog, some of these tracks are magnificently arranged and thought out – right down to swelling strings, harmonica, subtle percussion, and more.

In a fast, but never rushed sub-forty-minute run time, Danny takes us through all of the trials and travails of life, his own mostly, but also the characters he inhabits to tell his stories. Sometimes it’s purely him, and other times you can’t help wonder if some of these are meant as a report on people in his past. Opener “Quiet As A Rat”, the Appalacian feels of “Small Stone,” “Drop For Every Hour,” and “Shadow” all rippled with a rawness long-time fans will recognize and love. But in tracks such as “Murder At The Bingo Hall,” “Another Man’s Grave,” you can find new and different flavors and feelings “24K Casket” he is definitely covering new music ground with some of the same tools we came to love him for.

Besides his voice and songcraft, Born Against may have set the bar impossibly high for lyrics in 2021. Running the gamut of feelings, reflections on the imperfections of life, and just trying to cope with all we have been through, on our own and collectively; there is a depth to every lyric and verse. Danny peppers his verses with a lot of wry humor, especially considering the topics. Some of which will hit home, and some may escape the casual listener, but when you hear him unable to stifle a laugh or a pained grunting of the end of a phrase, it’s all real.

Born Against is an album that definitely grows and grows in your mind on repeat listens. It’s definitely worth traveling back to his older albums to see the full journey up to now and see an artist really saying something powerful and important about life, love, death, and the struggle we all have against our instincts to try and overcome ourselves.

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9 / 10