Hellbilly Music

POTBH Interview at Examiner.com

An interview with Phantom of the Black Hills
James Carlson

Roots Music Examiner
Phantom of the Black Hills
“Cross Yourself (Before You Cross Me)” is off of Phantom of the Black Hills’ latest album, 2010’s “Born to Gun,” on Ratchet Blade Records.
When it comes to the music of South Dakota’s doom country and hellbilly punk desperadoes Phantom of the Black Hills, two worlds couldn’t collide more violently, with plenty of bluegrass banjo pickin’, backwoods mandolin and upright bass thumpin’, together with loud punk guitar, hard-hitting drums and dirty, snarling vocals. This definitely isn’t your grandpappy’s country music, that’s for sure. And let me tell you, these fellas don’t look like the strummers and singers your grandpappy watched at the Grand Ole Opry or Louisana Hayride; instead, with cowboy hats pulled down over menacing outlaw masks, button-down shirts with suspenders, jeans and leather boots, these bandits look better suited to rob a stage coach or hold up a bank than lay down their hellfire songs.

Speaking of Phantom of the Black Hills’ songs, they pretty much go down like burning swigs of old Appalachian hooch; but they also make you want to move your legs a bit, like the twitching limbs of a condemned man danging from the gallows. On both albums — Ghosts and Born to Gun — it quickly becomes clear that their songs are much more mechanical than organic, with loops and sampling, and with a lot more distortion than twang. Even more than that, their songs amount to a soundtrack for unleashing one’s inner sinner and going forth into a night of transgression, where one loses oneself in drunkenness, violence and debauchery, at the end of which one very well might have ruined one’s chances at heaven.

Phantom of the Black Hills is a loose and ever-changing assemblage of evildoers and musicians, with but two anonymous core members. These modern-day outlaws are the sort who pick buckshot out of their meals, guzzle firewater, hide out in seedy saloons and gambling shacks and brothels, hoot n’ holler and fire their six-guns at the moon. They’ve got the devil in ‘em, and it shows in each and every song they write and play.

Last year I came across a Phantom of the Black Hills song for the first time, “Roses on a Grave,” on a compilation from Devil’s Ruin Records titled Rodentum: Dark Roots Music IV. While I was impressed with all four of the compilation volumes, I found myself listening to select songs over and over, among them the one by Phantom of the Black Hills. As a writer and music enthusiast, it didn’t take long before I contacted them and asked if they would be interested in being featured in one of my roots music pieces. Not long after that I received a press package containing their second full-length release, Born to Gun, on Ratchet Blade Records. And as far as the individual tracks on Born to Gun, I am especially impressed with the opener ”Scratchin’ at My Door,” “Cross Yourself (Before You Cross Me),” “Thief in the House,” “Whorehouse,” and “That’s How I Pull Rank.” MORE

Comments are closed.