L.A. SHIT [LP] (RED VINYL)
GracieHorse weaves stories into her songs. On L.A. Shit, her new record and first with Wharf Cat, she takes us into the past half a decade of her life. We see her as a traveling nurse, living in big blue expanse of Wyoming, dancing with a man in a crisp white Stetson, eating chicken wings in a hazmat suit, commenting on how strange a place like Los Angeles can be, how loaded it is with wannabe cowboys and fast food restaurants. It's a record of immaculate country music, the kind of stuff you'd put on blast in your truck as you drive down empty stretches of highway. It's also a vulnerable record, full of lyrics about the intensity of being alive, all told with a sense of humor and self-awareness.While some of the songs on L.A. Shit are over a decade old, Gracie started writing the record in earnest during the pandemic. She's a nurse, injured her neck in the line of duty, and suddenly found herself out of work. She had a creative explosion, putting memories into words and melodies in her home studio that she shared with her husband. Particles of songs from years past became beautifully realized. Everything was clicking in the way that it should. She found herself able to express the sometimes inexpressible. She did what all good country music should do: she created a patchwork of experiences in a way that is both deeply earnest and absolutely charming. All of this came not long after a period of time where Gracie felt a loss of creative control over her work. L.A. Shit is a statement about experiencing artistic ownership again. "Hollow Head," is the oldest song on the record. "I started writing it fifteen years ago," she says, "But I never got the chance to really sit down and work on it as much as I wanted." It's about the predator archetype, she shares. About being taken advantage of and trying to rise above it. "Cuz the wind will always find the dust to spin a devil," she sings over flutters of pedal steel, "Always find a weed to push around." Her voice is resonant, clear, emotive. The stuff of Lucinda Williams and old country standards. "What I'm Missing," is expansive, a world inside of a song. It's cosmic country: there are shitty motels and perfect vocal harmonies. True crime sleuths, hours spent rotting on the Internet, and poignant allusions to working in healthcare during the pandemic. It's a stunning song: all keys, more pedal steel. "If You're Gonna Walk That Straight Line Son, It's Only Gonna Hurt," burns like a fire in the desert. It gives off the vibe of a Neil Young song. There's huge cascades of guitars, Gracie's vocals are confident and searching. "This 8 ball that you're shaking has no answer," she sings, wryly. In addition to being Gracie's own major artistic statement, L.A. Shit is a community effort. To make it, she enlisted countless friends in the Los Angeles Area, many of whom are touring and session musicians who were stuck at home during the pandemic. "I'm grateful," she says of the experience, "I'm proud that I get to show off my friends on this record." Indeed, L.A. Shit is that kind of big family affair. It's as country as country can be. Funny, heartbreaking, brutal.