Last year’s Sidelong introduced Sarah Shook and the Disarmers with a batch of spot-on country music pushing quirky, menacing songs that showed a trace of vulnerability while simultaneously presenting a damaged character you’d screw with at your own peril. Years comes at the same subjects of sin and loss from several angles. “Every day you tell me I’m a drunkard, and every night you lie awake and stew / I never claimed to be anything other, darling, ’cause the bottle never lets me down the way you do,” Shook sings in her unrepentant oddball twang, as the vulnerability is giving way to acceptance and resolve. “I’m gonna learn me my lesson and move on / I’m gonna keep on a-lovin’ till the love is gone,” she sings on “Lesson,” a message to her ex-partner that she hopes he or she will also be able to get on with their life after their relationship augered from all the drinking and fighting.
The band is razor sharp, bringing a barely restrained punk energy to a lot of their playing, but they also are smart enough to keep it tight and respect the conventions of traditional country. Pedal steel always shows up right when you need it, and they jump from straight-up hillbilly to Bottle Rockets-style alt-country that stomps hard. This could be the album that puts them over the top.