The Sharawaji Records roster has been growing steadily and adding more high-profile releases. They recently grabbed some attention for the upcoming Chewbacca’s record, but meanwhile this little gem snuck under the radar. Black Valley Moon features the guitarist from Epitaph punk band Down By Law, but they do a great job of carving out a unique surf that feels accomplished and comfortable within the genre.
The one funny thing here is that their bark is definitely worse than their bite. I don’t think they sound all that baleful or skin-crawlin’, in fact I get a pretty solid beach party vibe from them. Maybe not quite as exuberant and gleeful as Frankie and the Pool-Boys… and yet that’s a band that pops into my head. The opener “Skyway to Hell” feels like a big-stage festival number, a little jammy and all over the place, but with a punchy organ motivating your feet.
“Glade Runner Blues” has an autumn feel to it, a little cooler and with some acoustic guitar in the mix, but still still boppin with some danceable surf tropes. That backup acoustic shows up several times throughout the album and is used to great effect each time.
“Beach Party of the Damned” is a clear clambake, with saxophone popping in to lighten the mood. It swirls into mysterious territory, but pops back into party mode, sorta like “a little bit softer now, a little bit louder now”, still staying fun.
There’s a few Western-styled tracks on here like “The Ballad of Ransom Clark” but they still go back to showy guitar-driven melody.
I think they’ve got a good command of the emotions they want to portray. “Cemetary Romance” feels genuinely romantic (and a little cemetary), and “Talk to me summer” is sweet. And when they actually want to get a little creepy like on “Shadows of Alafia” it feels suitably Halloween.
We’ve seen a number of punk groups stop by for a surf record (Swami John Reis, The Bronx), and the “Vol. 1” in the corner suggests that maybe Black Valley Moon will actually stick around. I hope so, they’ve got something good here.