Bernie Griffen is a well known figure in the local country music scene; a champion of independent music, performer and songwriter for over two decades, and longtime host of bFM’s Border Radio show. Last heard with his excellent band The Grifters, he has recorded this with the Thin Men, another classy line up of NZ musical luminaries including drummer Chris O’Connor, bassist Mike Hall, Matthias Jordan on keys and guitarist Jol Mulholland, who also elegantly produced the album.
‘Salvation’ is a recording of alt-country rock, with Griffen’s wearily fractured vocals at the fore, often paired with the harmonies of his partner and collaborator Kirsten Warner. Here, fiddle, banjo, organ and acoustic bass collide with twisted, alt-rock guitar lines and sounds, while Griffen and Warner sing as if their lives depended on it.
The performances are first rate and you are quickly reminded why these musicians are considered some of the best in the country – just listen to the whirling carnival of Circus Song, or the dark, desolate murderous blues of Burial Ground.
There is a strong sense of despair in these songs, the lyrics detailing sordid, sad and dark aspects of the human condition (and of our country’s recent history), making ‘Salvation’ a compelling, if unsettling, listen.