Henry Wagons, “Expecting Company?”

Peter Blackstock

By Peter Blackstock

on 01.22.13 in Reviews
Darker, jazzier turns that steer toward spaghetti-western territory

If your introduction to Australian artist Henry Wagons came via his eponymously named alt-country ensemble Wagons, his solo debut may come as a bit of a surprise. A seven-song EP consisting mostly of duets, “Expecting Company?” represents a distinct departure from his former band’s aesthetic. Eschewing cowpunk, Henry steers more toward spaghetti-western territory, recalling the moods and textures of Ennio Morricone soundtrack fare or perhaps Canadian band the Sadies. These darker, jazzier turns help to spotlight Henry’s voice, a rich baritone that drips with personality; though it’s based in classic crooning style, he spikes his phrasing with barbs and shards of dry cynicism. The result, as observed on the first two tracks “Unwelcome Company” (with Alison Mosshart) and “I’m In Love With Mary Magdalene” (with Sophia Brous), is highly theatrical and ominous, colored with lyrics about frightful pestilence and damnable attraction. “Give Things a Chance to Mend” (with Jenn Grant) turns toward more classic country balladry, while the closing track, “Marylou Two” — the lone non-duet of the bunch — pares things down to a beautifully spare acoustic arrangement. The apex is “I Still Can’t Find Her,” in which renowned fellow Australian Robert Forster (of the Go-Betweens) offers a spoken-word recitation that provides the singer with a sense of closure to his never-ending search.