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Performer Notes
  • For decades, the conventional wisdom on country music was that it reflected the realities of a grown-up's life in a way pop and rock & roll did not. At a time when bro country is the order of the day and most of what you hear on country radio has more studio polish than a boy band single from the early 2000s, Sarah Shook is here to show that there's still room in country music for the concerns and consequences of a working-class adult. 2018's Years, the second album from Shook and her group the Disarmers, is the work of a woman who has some tough life experiences under her belt, and she knows how to set them to music with a compelling honesty and a lyrical voice that's not afraid to show off her mileage. Judging from Years, Shook has had her heart broken and her life turned upside down by bad relationships more than once, and she's emptied a few bottles trying to blunt the pain. Those themes aren't exactly new to country (or rock & roll with strong honky tonk leanings, which more accurately describes where Shook and her band are coming from), but on Years, Shook makes them sound as vivid as a conversation you just overheard at the bar, and she gives them a gravity that suggests they're part of a life that's been lived without a lot of compromise. Shook's voice isn't exactly pretty, but she sounds as real and sincere as the night is long, and she makes her songs come alive with clarity and emotional force. If you're someone who works for a living and has had a couple serious relationships go south on you, "New Ways to Fail," "Over You," "The Bottle Never Lets Me Down," and "Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don't" will say more to you than 85-percent of what comes out of Nashville these days. And the Disarmers are the perfect bunch of honky tonk rockers to help Shook bring these tunes across. 2015's Sidelong showed Sarah Shook & the Disarmers had plenty of potential, and Years shows there are plenty more great songs where those came from. ~ Mark Deming
Professional Reviews
Paste (magazine) - "YEARS is a rock-solid example. It's an album built from shuffling rhythms, twangy swoops of pedal steel guitar, Shook's scowling alto and plainspoken lyrics about the struggle of day-to-day life."
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