Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Once in a while you meet a woman who has the sort of impossible-to-fend-off influence, the alluring presence to bend you as easily as a sledge could pound a ball of cookie dough into something entirely different in dimension, look and feel. This story involves not one, but three women of those exact characteristics, three women who have broken the spirits of weak men and strong men alike, who have doubled over more than their share of those men in excruciating pain, who have never done anything at all that they haven't been completely behind - that hasn't involved hedonism of epic proportions and the kind of effortless debauchery that makes everyone who hears about it later jealous. Those Darlins are a four-piece band from Tennessee, led by three absolute devils, firecrackers who could sweet-talk their way into as much trouble as they could handle. Kelley Darlin, Jessi Darlin and Nikki Darlin chronicle it all in their songs, going down the storytelling route of the outlaws that came before them (the hard ass men and women who messed a lot of their life and others up, but still laughed and carried on heartily through it all), giving themselves all of the alcoholic lubrication that would be needed to pull off all of the embellishments and get to that point in the night where they've forgotten more than they'll ever remember the next day, when their temples are splitting and their voices sound as rough as a hog's hide. Kelly Darlin sings, "Drinkin' and pain go hand-in-hand," and there's no determination if that's part of a chicken and egg riddle or it's just a declaration of fact. It happens so often in Darlins music that there's no clear-cut understanding - the drinking's always there as an elixir and as an anti-depressant candy. It's both the boon and the bane of any of the backfiring interactions that they've gotten mixed up in with (mainly) men who can't handle their wooly, scrappy ways. They probably get drunk under the table by these ladies too, whose capacity for the adult beverages can be confirmed from eyewitness testimony. They're like three cacti, three spit storms and three ladies of the rodeo that every man could recognize as being dangerous commodities and not worth the trouble, but that doesn't usually stop men and that's why Venus flytraps work as well. There is everything enticing about Those Darlins as they dare you to come closer, to lean in, to buy them another round and then you're sunk, but there will be a good tale to spin when you've come to. Those Darlins, singing about being snaggle-toothed mamas without any shoes, having corncrib daddies and living so far out in the country that the milk's gone sour by the time they arrive home, are an intoxicating blend of country fire and homespun charm and without knowing what's happening, you're suddenly smitten by their Wanda Jackson-ish ways and their tasty June Carter modes, had June Carter actually been Johnny and killed a man in Reno just to watch him die - amongst other things. The music is built ramshackle and yet sturdy like that old house that is still standing in spite of the odds and in deference to its sagging floors, drafty walls and muskiness. Out behind that house is a pyramid of empty cans and bottles, all with a story to tell, all probably flung aside like an outcast, a failure when the last drop slipped from its glass belly. It's just on to the next victim and the next headache.
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