At first listen, Kentucky Nightmare’s Take Her Favor stands out as odd, but odd in the best way possible. It’s a heady blend of dusty antique, modern indie and the kind of stuff that leaves record reviewers scrambling for something to compare it to. Bad for me, good for you.
Bloomington, Indiana’s finest veer from easygoing, acoustic-based cowboy campfire/doo-wop (“See You Dance”) to the pouncing rock detonation of “Money (A Lot)” to the kind of heart-on-sleeve delicacy you’d expect to find on a Death Cab for Cutie cut (“Lyin’ and Cryin’”), and they deftly navigate their way through a handful of songs that combine the above elements and more. By the time you reach the climactic closer, “The Challenger,” you’re nearly acclimated to Kentucky Nightmare’s intimate-to-epic lurches. “Going Back to Lucy” seems comfortable enough in its waltzing shoes until, like a spinning child, it revels in the buzz it gets from the dizziness. This one never falls down, however. The more straightforward and restrained “Moving Pictures” catches your attention lyrically, thanks to a perfectly placed pregnant pause: “If you don’t shut your mouth / I swear to God ... ” (pause) “I’m going to be gone.” The tension ebbs and flows throughout the song, which never breaks a simmer.
If the “Americana” tag were to be hung on Kentucky Nightmare it might happen during “The Latest Sound,” which swings appropriately. Of course, the band’s irrepressible pop sense and flashes of inspired quirkiness make this tune much more than a one-trick pony. Hold that tag, Mr. Rock Critic, ’cause it doesn’t apply here after all.
If you’re looking for music that’s comfortable in its own skin, well recorded but not overly varnished, and brimming with both pop smarts and subtlety, you’ll definitely find favor with this album. It’s a keeper that’s worth sitting down and listening to all the way through — a real accomplishment these iDays.