The husband-wife duo of Puerto Muerto have been incredibly prolific during the five years or so since they've formed. In that time, they've released three full-length albums, a slew of EPs, and a couple singles, while changing up their style only slightly to incorporate some new wrinkles. Their last album was the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired alternate-soundtrack Songs Of Muerto County, and at the risk of going to that well one too many times, Heaven & Dirt is another release loosely tied to that theme.
Subtitled "Requiem for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Parts 1& 2," this double-EP release is curious in several ways. For starters, it seems to have very little actually in common with the movie that the title references, and secondly the music has annoying been split onto two separate CDs (with six tracks and just over twenty minutes of music each) when there's no real stylistic or thematic justifications for doing so. At face value, there's plenty to be excited by here. I've mentioned it before in reviews for their previous releases, but singer Christa Meyer truly has an amazing voice. A classically-trained mezzosoprano, she can pretty much hit just about any note she wants to, while husband Tim Kelly adds a sort of rough, but charming vocal offset at times.
Musically, this release doesn't venture into any real new territory for the group, and if anything it finds them pulling back quite a bit from some of their more experimental wanderings of their past couple releases. There are no electronic freakouts or random diversions here (leaving that to the Fiery Furnaces), and they seem to have settled into a very comfortable groove with their spaghetti-western inspired rock music. "Down In The Mud" sounds like it's going to growl with a fairly standard rock edge, but soars during the second half with multi-tracked ghostly choirs from Meyer and soaring guitars, while songs like the simple "Tread Lightly" show off the great range of Meyer as only acoustic guitar provides a simple backing.
The short double-EP gets stronger as it goes on, with the second disc offering up almost consistently better songs than the first. With many tracks that simply mimic the feel of Songs Of Muerto County, though, this is a largely frustrating release that doesn't offer up much of anything new in the groups repertoire. With some editing, it could have been a great single EP, but as it stands this is much more work than it should be.