There’s a tough-minded mood running through the words for Russ Still and the Moonshiners’ “Poison in the Well” well matched by the music. The triple guitars riffing and chugging away through the bulk of the track have a lot of physicality without ever coming off as overbearing and it’s impressive how they ably juggle three different parts without ever stepping on one another’s toes. This isn’t a song ever looking to browbeat listeners, but the pairing of Still’s singing and the rugged music demands to be heard and brokers only token compromise.
RUSS STILL: https://russstill.com/
The compromise comes later in the track with a brief but spacious bridge that pulls back on the musical intensity. This shift in gears comes at the right time and varies the flavor of the performance without ever introducing jarring new elements into the cut. It counterpoints the hard-won wisdom in Still’s lyrics, as well. There’s some potent melodic guitar playing in the song’s second half that brings even more color to this track.
Still and his band observe excellent compositional standards through this song. The song falls short of the three and a half minute mark and wastes no time making an impression on listeners. The transitions from verse to chorus to bridge and back again are handled with expert skill; Still puts extra effort into making sure the chorus hits home with authority and lingers in the memory. He doesn’t have to lapse into melodrama, he doesn’t have to rely on false dramatics, and instead conveys his passion with convincing down-to-earth playing and singing.
2020 marks the band’s fifteenth year as an active recording unit. Russ Still and the Moonshiners earned their reputation through skill and emotional honesty, yes, but the ability to bring themselves into the music and revitalize its decades-old clichés for a new audience separates them from the herd. It’s a quality they have relied on for almost two decades and nothing you hear on this song hints at it failing them anytime soon.
You can easily imagine this song working well in a live setting as well, though live concerts are a scarce commodity at the moment, and it isn’t difficult to believe Russ Still and his collaborators always write songs with an ear turned towards how it will sound on stage. We can be certain that, eventually, Russ Still and the Moonshiners will be making live outings once again and there’s little doubt that “Poison in the Well” will be a fine addition to their set.
This is a band that can go anywhere from here. They have clearly not slowed down after fifteen years and there’s no suggestion present in this song that they will anytime soon. Still and his fellow musicians engage the act of performance with the same energy and commitment they have always exhibited as this band and they believe in their material. That’s a winning combination for any sort of music but, for the sort of style this band it embraces, it’s exactly the kind of formula sure to send “Poison in the Well” over the top.