Mississipi band’s long-delayed debut doesn’t really take flight.
The songs of Southern Gothic evoke early R.E.M. in their melodic, straightforward style; indeed, they stem from resurrected 1985 demos which were only finally recorded last year by the band, augmented by various notable session musicians like steel guitarist Russ Pahl. Among the better tracks are “You Leave Me Blind”, “Can’t Stop the Rain” and “Rhythms of Love”, all of which have some energy and moments of real intensity, as in the guitarwork which climaxes the latter. The ballads are less successful, the sense of restraint that tends to characterise even the Birds’ liveliest tracks making songs like “Life on the River” and “Gravity” hover on the border of blandness (which closer “The Desert” finally crosses). Southern Gothic is a pleasant enough listen but, lacking the dark drama or emotional grip such a title suggests, it’s more Southern hospitality.