Jerry Cantrell released his solo album around the same time Scott Weiland released his (see 12 Bar Blues). Though both albums were fairly well received by the press, the public seemed to pass over each one like a ship sailing through a cold dark night. It’s a shame, too. Weiland focused on off-center creativity, while Cantrell did what he does best: straight ahead rock and roll with personal lyrics.
“Boggy Depot” is easily as potent as any Alice in Chains release. This is a full album by a hugely talented songwriter, who possesses a strong and fluent voice. Cantrell seemed to be the heart and soul of Alice in Chains, and this CD hearkens back to an era of quality music that came from Seattle.
The album begins with a fuzzy in-your-face riff right away on “Dickeye,” and never looks back. Lyrically, Cantrell does do plently of looking back. Nevertheless, “Boggy Depot” is looser and less grinding than Alice in Chains, actually a breath of fresh Seattle air. “My Song,” with its vibrating guitars and excellent bridge at the chorus, got some well-deserved radio airplay at the time of the album’s release. Truthfully, though, this CD had a slew of potential radio hits, practically every song. “My Song” also displays a sense of independence in the lyrics that seems to be the order of the day for Cantrell. Other songs of personal reformation include “Settling Down,” a slower ditty with intentions of living a different and improved lifestyle.
One of my personal favorites is “Break My Back,” a kind of lost-in-love song, Cantrell-style. The song features warped vocals that eventually break free for a few lines, before hiding in darkness again. It’s the epitome of quiet introspection and sensitivity, and a little haunting to boot. Haunting is actually a key word to describe many of these songs, although the great riffage and tunefulness throughout make that dark vibe acceptable, even homey and pleasant.
“Keep the Light On” is another gem, a perfect balance between hard, raunchy guitars and a sparkling bridge at the chorus that is tender and beautiful amid the crunchy guitars that precede it; that particular section of the song is reminiscent of a Soundgarden tune called “Switch Opens.” “Between” is another great track, simultaneously bleak and fun; it’s a country tune disguised as down-home rock and roll. The eight-minute-plus “Cold Piece” gets back to Cantrell-style AIC, and it’s one of the best tracks on the CD. It contains despair mixed with hope, and “Boggy Depot” ends with a bold signature imprint of poignant piano and rough guitar riffage, as well as other surprising instruments.
Unlike Scott Weiland, Jerry Cantrell doesen’t necessarily need to be in a surrounding band with others writing. He can do it on his own.