With Love & Misery, Sinners & Saints singer/guitarist Perry Fowler and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Mark Baran craft an album so rollicking, tuneful and affable that it's easy to forget just how serious they are.
With sonic signifiers like the good-timey chug of The Faces' "Ooh La La" and the acoustic blues swing of John Mayall, Love & Misery is a stealth album, wrapping heartsick-yet-hopeful concerns in the elastic snap of rootsy arrangements and in songwriter Fowler's good humor.
The LP could well be a bookend to the Louvin Brothers' Tragic Songs of Life, with Fowler's and Baran's close-yet-distinct harmonies echoing the Louvins', coupling soaring sweetness with the twist of a pocket knife. Yet Sinners & Saints' gorgeously lovelorn songs of loss, transience and transcendence gladly embrace heartbreak as the price of being human.
The Overmountain Men's Geoff White lends sawing, restless fiddle to several cuts, including the romance-on-the-rebound barn burner "Recipe." Baran's ricocheting bass and frowsy barroom trombone take the spotlight on the doo-wop-shaded two-step "Only You," where the harmonies climb as anxious and angelic as Don and Phil Everly's.
Fowler's whirl-pooling guitar propels "Gods and Men," a tent-revival release of greed and aspiration that finds freedom in the closing line: "This all will fall apart."
On the forlornly waltzing title cut, Fowler's vulnerable lament entwines injury and desire, building to the shattering confession, "I love misery." It's the kind of emotionally grounded revelation that defines the intuitive spark and beating heart of Love & Misery.