And Gin Wigmore might just be his next big gamble to take the 2013 Vans Warped Tour stage shortly before she explodes in the States.
Relatively unknown in the U.S., the New Zealander is no stranger to fame in her homeland. The Auckland singer songwriter has a pair of multi-platinum albums in New Zealand, and in 2004 her song "Hallelujah" made her the only unsigned artist to ever win the Grand Prize in the US-based International Songwriting Competition. Now with the US release of her album Gravel & Wine (released in New Zealand in 2011), she stands poised to rock airwaves and Warped Tour concertgoers alike this year.
Wigmore has a big sound that defies categorization, but draws from a wide range of influences that owe more to the American south than they do the Kiwi cliffs. There is a lot of deep, dark Americana in a vein not unknown to bands like Th' Legendary Shack Shakers or Murder by Death, mixed with a rough rock attitude, some seriously twanging honky tonk influences and an overwhelming amount of soul that lets you know Wigmore is making the music that she feels deeply connected to.
The opening track, "Black Sheep" is raw, dark and soulful, and when she drops the line "Everybody's doing it, so why the hell should I?", you know you're hearing the dirty mantra of the artist, a principle that guides her through Gravel & Wine from beginning to end, and one that should continue to propel her forward.
The album is loaded with a dirty rocking swagger, like on "Man Like That" with a thumping beat that borders on the tribal, just as she drops venomous vocals with attitude-laden backups that are just as fun as they are bitter, with a horn accompaniment that simply smokes. And "Sweet Heel," her duet with Butch Walker is twang-laden swing fest with a pure cowpunk vibe and a dark americana ethos.
"Poison" is a visceral piano-driven tribute to an unhealthy love affair that manages to combine elements of a Nick Cave-inspired murder ballad with a Dresden Dolls' dirty drive and a Girl in a Coma-styled bit of Southern smoke. And while the lamenting lovelorn lyrics of tracks like "If Only," and "Saturday Smile" seem to shed the venomous attitude that make Wigmore so appealing, she never approaches the piano-laden melodramatic pathetic wallowing that Tori Amos has been guilty of, nor does she ever shed her truly big sound, even when the music is stripped down to more ethereal combination of piano and strings.
Any emotional excesses on the record are clearly complimented and surpassed by tracks like "Kill of the Night," dirty, sexy tracks that spit rock and roll attitude and stomp it out on the floor like a cigarette being stubbed out on the sticky floor of a backwater honky tonk bar. And when she chants, "This is a bad town for such a pretty face" before crooning "I wanna taste the way that you bleed," you can't help but feel like you've stumbled into the wrong place.
Gravel & Wine is loaded with sultry track after sultry track, with songs that find Wegmore reaching bitter highs loaded with aggressive vitriol and emotional levels even higher full of bittersweet ruminations. At it's heart, it comes across as an album with a vibe of someone feeling very wronged by love, and yet Wegmore comes across as one that nobody would want to wrong. It's almost a cautionary tale - when she spits out the line "Don't go telling me she's just a friend" on "Happy Ever After," you almost feel sorry for the target of the track. Sure, she may have been wronged, but you get feeling that she knows more than a little bit about revenge.
Gin Wigmore may not be the biggest name on the 2013 Vans Warped Tour as it kicks of, but one can't help but wonder if, by tour's end, she has stolen the spotlight, when the New Zealand girl with a big voice and heady dose of American influence becomes to one thing that nobody can stop talking about. You might want to catch her now, before she starts selling out the stadium shows like Kevin Lyman's previous mainstage selections.