Hallowed Ground

Violent Femmes

Slash, 1984


REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler


This is without a doubt one of my favorite records of all time. I discovered the Femmes when I was in high school. While everyone else was listening to KoRn and Limp Bizkit, I was listening to the Femmes, The Dead Milkmen, and the Smithereens. This album was available as a cassette from the local library and I immediately fell in love. I was uninterested in the popular clique and was more or less wrapped up in my own world. This record spoke to me, not only as a Christian, but also as someone who wasn’t very pleased with the outside world.

The story goes that frontman/guitarist/songwriter Gordon Gano had written the majority of these songs during the writing frenzy that created the songs on their landmark self-titled debut. But bassist Brian Ritchie and drummer Victor DeLorenzo, both atheists, did not want to perform these Christianity-related songs on their debut album. However, they compromised and allowed Gano to include them on their sophomore record.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first track, “Country Death Song,” is, simply put, one of the greatest songs of the whole ‘80s alternative rock era. Written by Gano about an old newspaper article he had read, the song is about a farmer who’s dealing with what to do with himself. What he has done is he has thrown his daughter into a well and now must live with his actions. The narrative of the song is so hauntingly beautiful and so well sung and performed that it boggles the mind! Another song that casts the same spell is “Never Tell,” which at seven minutes is the longest track the band ever put on record. It sounds like one of those great old blues singers weaving a tale and then asking for forgiveness – it just is amazing.

“I Know It’s True But I’m Sorry to Say” is one of the band’s best ballads and has the feel of real, deep emotion. The religious aspects of Gano’s songwriting comes through the most on “Jesus Walking On The Water,” which sounds like something that one would find in a church hymnal, as well as the title track and on “It’s Gonna Rain,” which is literally about Noah and his ark.

The only negative aspect of this record is the free-form jazz improvisation section of “Black Girls,” which kills the entire song. If you take that aspect away from the record, it’s still great and if you ask me, it is THE BEST record the Femmes ever made. They would spend the rest of their career trying to match the heights of the first two records but never quite getting there. If you’re looking for a great Christian related record without all the overt preachiness, then this is definitely the place to go.

Rating: A-

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