Recorded at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, The Devil Makes Three released Chains Are Broken, their first original record in five years. It’s a lot different from their signature sound- and a lot of that is due to percussion. If you’re not familiar with The Devil Makes Three, they’re a trio of string players- Lucia Turino on upright base, Cooper McBean on resonated guitar, and Pete Bernhard on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. For Chains Are Broken, they took into the team drummer Stefan Amidon, from the golden-country-style band The Sweetback Sisters. It’s easy to hear his influence in the album, as songs such as “Pray for Rain” and “Can’t Stop” have a pungent southern-twang sound to them. In addition to drums, Amidon also plays piano and mellotron on this record, which add to diversify the traditional sounds heard on a Devil Makes Three recording.
Side one starts with “Chains Are Broken,” which is in itself an independent narrative pertaining for breaking free of outside control and possibly guilt, and an old Devil Makes Three fan can’t help but think of it being connected to one of their first songs “Chained to Couch.” “Pray For Rain” slides into a faster, more rockabilly atmosphere, and a lot more of the Turino’s vocals are heard – more prominently than in previous years. “Paint My Face” is by far my favorite track- the lyrics, harmony, and guitars work so well with each other, and are reminiscent of the dark-spiritual mood The Devil Makes Three continues to embrace. The song references dawning war-paint for inevitable battles we will all face, reincarnation, and a universal connection we share with each other in living and dying. “Can’t Stop” pertains to spiritual ruin and drug addiction, while “Need to Lose” is best described as truck-stop-dark-gospel going high-speed across a sunny dessert in mood. “All is Quiet” ends this side and shifts the sound drastically from sunny 50’s rock to more of a deep gloom ballad and does a quick pick-up in tempo at the end that I wish lasted longer.
Side two starts off with “Bad Idea,” which is self-explanatory in subject matter. It revels in those times where we let ourselves be human and make mistakes or do things morally questionable but worth-it in the moment. Some of their most amusing lyrics come from this one, such as “Bait inside the bear trap, somebody’s ‘gonna loose a limb,” “You’ve left lies outside the doorstep, lined up like dominoes…” and many more before the song closes. McBean also takes a quick resonated-guitar break that just adds to an inevitable-bar-fight party feel to this tune. “Deep Down” follows in the same vein, refreshing in how the lyrics sing about accepting being a flawed human being, but not beating themselves up about it or pleading for forgiveness. “Native Son” and “Castles” go a little bit slower, and have a beach-sunset flow in their harmonies. The record ends with “Curtains Rise,” which has a bit of irony to it, but is named that to emphasize the need to move on and still live after those closest to you have left.
Chains Are Broken celebrates life, the imperfection of human nature, those that have left it, and possibly a new chapter beyond or back-in-cycle.