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Country with gothic edge

By JACK W. HILL SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published February 21, 2013 at 12:26 a.m.

— What could a woman from Michigan know about country music? She’s not even from the Upper Peninsula, that mysterious area that’s probably swarming with lumberjacks and bears. Well, Rachel Brooke is from the upper Lower Peninsula, it turns out, and she knows plenty about the sad sounds of country music, and she’s bringing hers to Arkansas for the first time. She has been called not just country, but also gothic and punk and someone perhaps born in the wrong time and the wrong place.

“I’m from Lovells, about an hour east of Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore,” Brooke reports while in a van headed to Chicago and then on to Eureka Springs before tonight’s show in Hot Springs. “I grew up in a family bluegrass band, where my dad played banjo and mom played the bass.”

Brooke played in the family band for some eight years and has been doing her own thing for about five years. She has released three full-length CDs: a self-titled debut in May 2009, Down in the Barnyard in February 2011 and her latest, A Killer’s Dream, in December. There was also a four-song EP, Late Night Lover, in January 2012.

“Hank Williams Sr. was my very first favorite musician,” Brooke says. “My shows feature pretty much my own songs, plus I’ll mix in a few old ones just because I like them. I don’t write many happy songs, since I’m not really inspired to write when I’m happy. I write more when I’m miserable.”

“You could say I’m a little dark,” she adds with a giggle, sounding not at all dark. Although a few listens to her songs confirm her statement. For instance, on “The Barnyard,” she sings of a lovers’ encounter that comes to a premature conclusion due to a nearby“hammer of rust that ended his lust.” Then the song’s protagonist goes to the home of her best friend, the subject of her lover’s lust, and brings her to the barnyard hammer party.

It’s a song that belongs on a collection of murder ballads alongside “Long Black Veil,” “Delia’s Gone” and “Frankie and Johnny.”

“I kind of create the songs or get them in my dreams,” Brooke says. “People seem to like them. We opened for Shooter Jennings the other night and he said some nice things about my songs.”

Brooke plays acoustic guitar and sings, and has a backing band with electric guitar, drums and bass. She admits that she might throw in a lonesome yodel on occasion: “I can do a little bit of that, but I try not to overdo it.”Rachel Brooke

7 p.m. today, Maxine’s, 700

Central Ave., Hot Springs

Admission: Free

(501) 321-0909

www.maxineslive.com

Weekend, Pages 33 on 02/21/2013

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