Portland country-folk singer-songwriter Leigh Marble is one angry, angry man on his third full-length album, Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows. Opening song “Walk” even opens with the repeated lyrics, “I’m going to walk until the anger’s gone.” There’s a pretty good reason for Marble to be pissed off. His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in recent years. Though it went into remission, Marble spent more than a year in a depressive and anxious funk while she went through treatment. Those sentiments fuel Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows, which is an alternately dark and smutty album in equal measure. Indeed, when Marble isn’t busy gazing at his shoes and intoning over and over “evil don’t find me here” as he does on, well, “Evil”, he’s busy chronicling the drunken debauchery that occurs in strip bars (“Jackrabbit, baby / Your ass is in the air,” goes “Jackrabbit”). This mix of the sullen and the profane is an odd one that doesn’t always work well. Marble has a bit of a plain and light voice, and doesn’t have the gin-soaked cadence to carry off some of the more bitter tracks.
When Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows does work, it gently reels the listener in. “Nail” is a seven-and-a-half minute long slowcore ballad that recalls the depressive longing of Sparklehorse circa Good Morning Spider mixed in with the ambitious burn of a Pink Floyd ballad like “Comfortably Numb”. (Final song “Cars” even uses the line “pigs on the wing” in the lyrics, which would seemingly be a direct nod to the Floyd.) Country ballad “Goodnight” sounds remarkably Wilco-esque, and could have easily fit in on Being There. “Pony” is a jumpy two-and-a-half minute rocker that exposes a mismatched relationship. However, some of Marble’s vitriol comes off as silly and excessive. “All you fucking fakers / I’ll arrange you to meet your maker,” Marble sings on “Holden”, a song tackling hipsterdom that utterly misses its mark as Marble is almost singing with his tongue in his cheek, attacking the very PBR-swilling audience that might enjoy this sort of thing. Alternately, when he’s trying to be funny, there’s an edge of red that undercuts the songs. Ultimately, the feelings expressed on Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows don’t seem sincere in the slightest at times, which is odd given the trials and tribulations that the author went through. Perhaps Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows is an example of a songwriter being too close to the subject matter and not being able to express himself properly, given that the wounds were too fresh to have any sense of perspective on. Basically, Marble might have been better served taking an anger management class than unleashing his mixed emotions on befuddled listeners. The disc feels uneven and aimless, making it at best something of an interesting misfire and at worst inconsequential.