If you are going to sign songs of blue collar romanticism then you have to have voice that exudes individuality. You can’t sound like someone else and render the rose tinted veneer of past days transparent nor can you make the poetry of broken hearts sound like fairy tales. It is therefore fortunate that this self-titled album by Tenement & Temple features both the unique vocal talents of Monica Queen and the expressive guitar of Johnny Smilie to thus make their joint venture into Americana territory one that you – and I – would wish to experience with them.
The sentimentality inherent to the true roots of country music is here in abundance and, with not a note of melancholy missed, Tenement and Temple spin ten gems of a dreamlike alternative reality that threatens to take even the unbeliever for a walk down the spiritual path. They even throw in a cover of “Blue Moon” to focus your drifting mind on the fifties but it is the tear jerking glory of the originals that will get you closer to God (or Nashville). The nostalgic romanticism of “Loving Arms”, for example, would melt even an ice cold heart and the compressed melodrama of “10 More Years” contains the kind of emotional overload that Patsy Cline would surely have approved of.
When all is said and done and the tears have been wiped from my eyes, Tenement and Temple put not a foot wrong on this album and Monica Queen duly remains my country queen of choice. Now, back to work as those cows won’t milk themselves.
Best song? “Where The Wild Roses Grow” if only for the sheer sentimentality.
The verdict? Sublime selection of songs seasoned with retro country style.