Few people can conjure feelings of utter despair and loneliness as authentically as Ross Etherton. His performances are emotional exorcisms of epic proportions; you can't help but be moved by the anguished expressions on his face and the fiery tears that form in the corners of his eyes. His Red Cloud West bandmates are equally as riveting. The band, which also features former Westword scribe Jason Heller, has crafted a sound that recalls Johnny Cash as much as it evokes Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen. At the same time, if you listen a little closer, you can hear the chiming, angular-yet-loose guitars of Hüsker Dü and early-'90s drone rock. Although Red Cloud has many layers, the songs are as cohesive as they are gut-wrenching. Just try to keep your heart from breaking as you listen to songs like "Love It's Not Working" or keep your composure during furious tracks such as "Cut Out Their Tongues." Having explored the farthest edges of sadness, Red Cloud West (due this Saturday, September 2 at Monkey Mania) has created some of the most overwhelmingly moving music ever heard in these parts.
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