Chie Horiguchi‘s debut solo album was definitely one of this years biggest surprises: until now she was known as the guitarist of Learners, a band playing covers of classic, old-school rock’n’roll (including some really fine ’50s stuff), but then, out of nowhere (or well, at least long years after 2017, when she released an album with her previous band, Chie & The Wolf Baits), she dropped a single, Watch Your Back late July (along with its black & white music video), which made waves thanks to its raw, yet refined heavily blues rock inspired garage rock sound. It was something that you would expect to hear from the one-and-only Chiba Yusuke, but with female vocals. And what vocals! A strong, somewhat raspy voice, that fit the music perfectly. And she followed that song with her first album, Outsider a few months later and while it is equally excellent in its own way, it is very, very different from what anyone would have expected based on just that one song.

It starts out with an instrumental featuring a fast, galloping rhythm, that sounds like a theme of a modern Western movie, followed by Watch Your Back, but then the tone and tempo changes with Midnight Rider, which is a beautiful slow tune, with the first hints of country and southern influences. Which, as it turns out, starting with the following Austin Texas pretty much dominate the rest of the album. Honestly, I usually dislike country and the whole southern vibe quite one bit, with only a very few exceptions (like the first two 16 Horsepower albums), but somehow Miss Horiguchi makes it all work. Mostly by not sticking to just one style, but bringing us along to a trip through all the different sorts of country and southern style rock sounds that you can imagine, from the uptempo Buzz Flag, that culminates in a sing-along, through the slower, melodic, more folk-rockish On The Road Again to the sweet Lilac Fairy. And her singing is as diverse as the music: her voice is raspy where it needs to be and sweet and higher where that is what the song needs.

Closing with another instrumental, the banjo centered Teana, you really get everything on Outsider that you would expect from a country influenced album, with all the banjo and violin that you ever needed to hear and she manages to keep up the quality and interest all the way. It is a really fun ride, obviously made with a lot of love and while it did not make my like country more, it is still a very entertaining album that I will certainly return to from time to time.

2021.09.08 / cd, lp, digital
02.Watch Your Back
03.Midnight Rider
04.Austin Texas
05.akuma no shiwaza (悪魔のしわざ)
06.Buzz Flag
07.Down By Law
08.akai bōdō (紅い暴動)
09.kimi no ban wa kuru (君の番はくる)
10.On The Road Again
11.Lilac Fairy
12.Paper Moon


A year in reviews: in 2021 I was somewhat neglecting the site due to the lack of free time, but now I try to make up for it as much as possible, reviewing several important / good / interesting albums that were released this year. One for each day throughout December, from a very wide spectrum of genres. #2021reviews