When Molly Simms released her solo LP Revenants early last year, she presented a range of influences and inflections through her strong, flinty voice. Much of that album was colored by impressions of the blues, but she also worked in some Delta twang and torch-song tenderness. On the sophomore release Sunday Best, Simms returns as the leader of the Bible Belt Sinners and points her voice in one direction as the Sinners work through dependable garage-rock riffs with traces of rockabilly and punk. The quartet certainly has the look and style down pat, from the Brylcreem and bouffants to the band's jet-black outfits. Musically, the group retains that grease-stained allure thanks to the thudding slap of Myles Richardson's upright bass and Andrew Bono's crunchy, unfussy guitar leads. Drummer Grotto Kozieja gives a manic lope to most of these songs, with rhythms that are somewhat elastic but never light.
On the seven-song Sunday Best, the band wears its leather-clad finery with skill and reverence, if little invention. Rather than giving space to flashy guitar solos, the focus is kept on Simms and her story-songs of a life lived on the fringes. "Bad Guy" builds to a glam-boogie boil with simple but dead-on riffs, and opening cut "The Killer" finds Simms at her most snarling. But lest you doubt her chops, listen for that song's final note, a sustained vocal moment held past the din of guitars and drums with such force that it seems to strain the microphone's impedance levels. "Empty Bottles" is a welcome shot of jangle-pop and group vocals, which offer a nice shift away from the bluesy, minor-key twang found on the rest of the album.
This publication named Simms as our town's best vocalist back in 2010, when she was 21 years old, and there's nothing on this album to suggest that anything has changed. Compared to her solo work, though, the Bible Belt Sinners keeps Simms' talents locked in one mode when she is capable of much more. —Christian Schaeffer