Although it's been largely overshadowed by her more prevalent role as a torch singing chanteuse, k.d. lang began her career with a rootsy country band known as the Reclines, which featured lang's madcap square dancing, Patsy Cline-inflected vocals and a particularly pointed sense of both gravity and comedy set to a floor-stomping soundtrack. Thirty years later, this is, to a certain extent, the similar territory staked out by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers on their debut, "Sidelong."
Shook actually released "Sidelong" through CD Baby two years ago, but her recent signing to Bloodshot is giving the album a second life with a wide release ahead of a new Disarmers release in 2018. And it's a good thing; "Sidelong" may well be one of the best albums of 2015 that no one got the opportunity to hear. Shook sets the tone with the galloping opener, "Keep the Home Fires Burnin'," which blows out of the gate like Lydia Loveless fronting the Old 97s, immediately followed by the swinging, swaggering twang-and-thump of "The Nail," which hews closer to early Reclines as Shook warbles with Langian humor and intensity, "When I think about the end, boy, and I think about it often/I can't decide which one of us will be the nail in this here coffin."
Just as frequently, Shook and the Disarmers peg the roots rock needle with the visceral throat punch of Jason & the Scorchers ("Heal Me," "Make It Up to Mama"), while finding the dark heart of country with a Crazy Horse buzz (the title track, "Dwight Yoakam"). And it's not hard to think of contemporarily authentic bad girl Nikki Lane and the late, lamented Those Darlins when Shook smokes, sneers and storms her way through tracks that sneak up and smack you silly, particularly "Misery Without Company," "Nothin' Feels Right but Doin' Wrong" and the loping, speaks-for-itself "Fuck Up."
The danger of an album as good as "Sidelong" on the first pass is that the band might not have anything in reserve, but the quality and passion that Sarah Shook & the Disarmers bring to their debut indicates that they're gassed up and ready for the long haul.