Nearly one year ago, the music died. Okay, a bit melodramatic, but when Lanegan died, that really hit me because of the voice, the story, the fact that he came through. No one will ever have a voice that hits as deep and as warm, as scary and as brittle-strong as him. Being a music “addict” and always searching for new methadone, it was a sheer pleasure to stumble upon Soothsayer Orchestra and The Last Black Flower.
Does he always tell the truth? Maybe not. Does it sound like it? For sure! Pieter Hendricks has surely listened to Lanegan, Nick Cave, or Jeffrey Lee Pierce and some more of the earlier greats, like Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix or Johnny Cash. Even though his first musical projects had a very different sound, he has that knack for showing us the dark side of Americana, full with harmonicas, slightly screeching riffs, very cool rhythms and a lot of “the Blues”. It feels as modern as it should and as reminiscent as possible, because let’s get one thing straight: no one would listen if his project sounded like a pure carbon copy of the aforementioned acts. It doesn’t, and the fact that Pieter sounds the way he does cannot be held against him.
He wrote and recorded the songs for his 2021 debut somewhere in my home region – the Eifel, a part of Germany south of Cologne and bordering on France in the South, Belgium and Luxemburg in the West. A rugged, hilly part of Germany and the deeper you go, the lonelier it gets. Although he now has his own studio (the Dungeon, fitting name, huh?), his sound hasn’t become any more polished, which shows a clear idea of what this project is about. It is about some of the darkness inside all of us, about the craving for truth and the fear of finding it. Of finding it somewhere, where we cannot get a good hold of it because it keeps slipping away. He looks deep into his own soul and into himself, fighting the ever-so-often-quoted demons and then comes up with some really simple but heart-pumping honest lines like ”I wanna feel … / I wanna feel you”. The more I listen to the record, the more it reminds me of Field Songs and I feel embraced by an unknown friend. Especially when the little twists and turns are so cleverly employed like the second (female?) vocal line and the very short but really clever string part in the background of ”The Gleaming of Beryl”. These are the moments when it becomes clear that this is a record for the dark-gray, windswept days of the year, when you need your campfire, some blankets and someone to keep you company while drinking either some hot tea or some warming whiskey. The Last Black Flower will probably be my album this year for these days (together with some hot, strong black tea, if anyone wants to know!)!
Pieter surely has a knack for writing songs that are pretty different in style and sound but held together by his unique voice no matter if they are brittle Americana (”The Bonediggers Blues”) that sound as if Neil Young finally grew some … you know whats; his voice also connects that track to some Blues tracks like ”Everlasting Wings” which opens with nothing more than his vocals and some simple guitar lines on an acoustic axe; he can also come up with elegant, bass-line beating Indie-Rock like ”Kissed a Tyrant” and it all feels so homogeneously connected to all other tracks that it is nothing short of amazing.
So, how he does he do it? I would say, the key lies in his phrasing of the words, and that is exactly what connects him to Lanegan, because he twists the endings of the words very similarly to Mark. So, if you also want to get your Lanegan-methadone, Pieter Hendricks and Soothsayer Orchestra are probably your go to act! And now I will spin Whiskey For the Holy Ghost and then The Last Black Flower.