Attempting to follow in the footsteps of Willie Nelson’s 1975 song cycle “Red Headed Stranger” is no small ambition, but that’s what singer-songwriter Holly Muñoz and power-pop titan Ken Stringfellow have done with this country opera. They even finish where “Red Headed Stranger” began, with a resonating take on “Time of the Preacher,” Nelson’s opener. “The Record” reintroduces two down-and-out lovers who first appeared in a song on Stringfellow’s last solo album (“Doesn’t It Remind You of Something,” reprised here in very different form), sketching trials and tribulations that revolve around a betrayal, and glancing off of larger issues in the course of that exploration. The story is carried along by the gorgeous back-and-forth dueting of Stringfellow and Munoz and the intermittent appearance of Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws as, it seems, a cosmic narrator of sorts. Add instrumental interludes and lyrical recurrences, a spooky version of “Edelweiss,” desert noir and space twang, and it makes for a fascinating left-field listen.
ESSENTIAL “Ballad of the Record”Stuart Munro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.