It started out so well. The opening and title track of Brian Connell’s The Sordid exhibits a wry narrative voice and slightly macabre sense of humor given counterpoint by a jaunty organ and acoustic guitar shuffle. “Standing at your burial, broken down inside / The sun shined on your casket / Your aunts and uncles cried / But after everything that came out after you had died / It’s a wonder I was even there at all”, he sings happily, easing into a sing-along chorus about the best days of his life. It sets up expectations for an album that is similarly witty and weird, but unfortunately that album is delivered only in flashes.
Most of the songs that follow feel oddly like echoes of songs from Connell’s wide-ranging influences. The “Palisades Park”-like surf rock of “Get Away from Myself” leads into “Take Your Time (But Don’t Take Mine)”, whose opening driving-railroad chords and lyrics (“Well hear that bell a-ringin’, ringin’ through the town”) openly evokes “Folsom Prison Blues”. “Steal Away” is layered with shades of Nirvana, and “A Chicken Must Die (In Crawford)” plays like “Maggie’s Farm” meets “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. Connell’s performance is assured, and the sly humor marking his first track is woven through many of his story-based tunes, but it’s not enough to overcome the listeners’ nagging thought that they’d be better off turning to the Cash or Dylan originals.