S.G. Goodman Hits On All Musical Cylinders Via Genre & Guitar Sprawling ‘Teeth Marks’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Credit: Meredith Truax

There are so many different Americas right now within our country’s borders it’s hard to make sense of what an “American Identity” actually means anymore. It’s hard to escape this fact with all of the big attention-grabbing headlines these days highlighting how divided we are. A big focus is on the enormous legal rifts forming between states with the only thing keeping a lot of people out of the penitentiary is a made-up state line on a map. On her latest full-length album Teeth Marks, Murray, Kentucky’s S.G. Goodman ardently addresses the slightly less talked about struggles emerging from a society that no longer seems to share the same basic concept of how to love your fellow human being. 

The album comes on slow with the opening/title track acting as a great introduction to the overarching themes of love and empathy that is so deeply wound throughout. It’s a biting, unrequited love ballad filled out by cathedral-esque vocal harmonies, lightly finger-picked electric guitar, and a dynamic building of ambient background sounds all held together by Goodman’s distinctive, haunting vocals. Whether tackling a specific romantic relationship or societal/social norms, “Maybe in time, you’ll see things my way”, is repeated throughout the song complimenting verses that, like any great folk song, can be taken as literally or figuratively as the listener needs. 

Jumping off from there, Teeth Marks turns into a genre sprawling work while maintaining a focused and concise overall sound. “All My Love”, a “happy love song” which any artist will tell you is a daunting thing to write, is an upbeat psychedelic highway-rocker that settles perfectly into the warm, Southern, front porch folk swagger of “Heart Swell”. 

“When You Say It”, a bittersweet tune with country-folk DNA and a heart of soul, gives way to a brilliant one-two punch in the form of “If You Were Someone I Loved” and “You Were Someone I Loved”. The former is a gritty, southern rocker combined with Velvet Underground evoking, droning guitar chords. The latter is a stirring and poignant acapella performance steeped in the tradition of Southern Appalachian ballad singing. The stark contrast dynamically compliments the fact that the two songs tackle two sides of the opioid crisis, an issue affecting Americans from all over the map.

While Goodman can trace her musical roots to singing three times a week in a Southern Baptist choir, she was able to cut her teeth on her own as part of the vibrant and diverse scene at Terrapin Station in Murray Kentucky. Because the number of both bands and clubs in town is small, shows at Terrapin Station often would have bands from multiple, seemingly unconnected, genres on the same bill. This melting pot of influences is especially apparent when you hold tracks like “When I Die” and “Dead Soldiers” next to each other. While “When I Die” captures the punk influences of the club, “Dead Soldiers” showcases a vocal range and power that very few things other than singing to God three times a week can cultivate.

Goodman’s own experience coming out as gay around the release of her debut album Old Time Feeling highlights the different experiences Americans can have in this country depending on where they live. An announcement most people in large coastal cities would either celebrate or not think all that much about, her coming out was met harshly by her hometown community in Kentucky. On Teeth Marks, we see an artist working through that coming fully into their own and with the confidence to tackle love in a compelling and refreshing way, along with the many joys and scars that it leaves in its wake.

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