ABOVE THE CURRENT
What we learned about S.G. Goodman when the Hickman, Kentucky singer-songwriter dropped her debut album Old Time Feeling was that she wasn’t having it. Any of it. The proud daughter of a farmer/sharecropper who came up through the KY bar-band scene is highly political (I dare you to ask her about Mitch McConnell), and yet I wouldn’t call her a social-political songwriter. Like John Prine and Leonard Cohen, the politics of Goodman are implied, caught up in the wily web of her own wry, literary, autobiographical lyrics, her cool, craggy vocals, and her overall love and respect for all things Southern, especially its soulful, folksy musicality.
To that end, Goodman’s self-produced Teeth Marks basks in that Southern glow with just a little more of a lean toward ennui and existential dilemma than the scarred specifics of her debut—making her, in essence, closer to a Raymond Carver than, say, Carson McCullers. Instead of Carver’s medflies, Goodman traffics in cicada choirs as a metaphor for the ruinous hum at the eye of the tornado of a despairing breakup on “The Heart Swell,” “Heart of It,” and the title track.
There are studies of old pals fighting losing battles with addiction on the cracked soul of “Dead Soldiers” and the empathy-laced pair of tracks “If You Were Someone I Loved” and “You Were Someone I Loved,” which could just as easily symbolize the very-real decay of the human spirit that Goodman has witnessed in her time. And there are highly personal songs that touch upon the decisions one makes and breaks concerning suicide on closer “Keeper of the Time” (a follow-up to “Space and Time” from her first album) and queer romance such as “Patron Saint of the Dollar Store” that show slivers of her life without revealing her whole hand. As a gambler, Goodman is a card shark.
All the while, Teeth Marks is louder, but more nuanced, than Old Time Feeling—Goodman insists she’s a rocker, and proves it here, yet with an R&B singer’s emotional edge—and, quite frankly, catchier. The melodies to “All My Love Is Coming Back to Me” and the blue-collar classicism of “Work Until I Die” are as memorable in their contagious songcraft as they are for Goodman’s weary way with the tracks’ most soulful vocals.