Building on the thrilling strengths of his fearsomely original 2009 debut, Whisky Priest (which Lone Star Music magazine deemed “one of the most compelling albums to come out of Texas in the past year”), Austin-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dustin Welch is set to release his second album, Tijuana Bible, on Feb. 12 via his own Super Rooster Records. Like Whisky Priest before it, Tijuana Bible finds the Nashville-born Welch playing the part of a wickedly mysterious carnival barker, bouncing strains of Americana, rock, and folk music off of each other like a hall of funhouse mirrors. His lyrics are similarly multifaceted, reflecting literary influences ranging from American gothic to gritty pulp fiction and themes both sacred and profane.
Welch calls Whisky Priest and Tijuana Bible (named after the hand-drawn pornographic pamphlets that were passed around in Depression-era work camps) the first two parts of a projected trilogy. Although the songs are neither overtly religious nor linked to each other as part of a conceptual story, many of them do share a sense of desperation-hardened fortitude — along with hints of mono-mythic mysticism.
There are more sinners than saints here, and some of them are admittedly a lot farther off from redemption than others. As the protagonist in “St. Lucy’s Eyes” warns, “This life I lead, it’s not for the faint of heart.” But even at its darkest, Welch’s music still thunders with the exuberant spirit of horses running wild, indifferent to the line between fever dream and prophecy.