Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Delines - The Imperial, album review

Beautiful Weariness

The seemingly hopeful exhortation for Charley to ‘cheer up’ in the album’s opening song is surely as empty as a recession-closed mini-mall car park? Is it remotely possible that this sad man has never heard the full story before?

Don’t believe it Charley; don’t imagine reality is ever other than narrated as it is.

Ill fortune and fortuity are far too persuasive in this real world for false hopes. No matter how good and positive things might have been, the bad cousin will visit and spoil it all, as in Imperial Apartment 315, a habitation for everyperson.

Sonny knew this. Sonny just disappeared. What is the point? How can there be a way out when a scene of sudden dislocation is accompanied by

A woman carrying a baby walks by
Next to me there’s an old couple
Whose car won’t start
And the snow keeps drifting down

In these opening three songs – Cheer Up Charley, The Imperial, Where Are You Sonny? the horns of Cory Gray and Kelly Pratt fill the plaintive role normally supplied by pedal steel, though that is sure to come. This is exemplified further in the blues of fourth Let’s Be Us Again with its repeated yearning for a return to better times that cannot possibly be retrieved, despite the dreaming.

And once more, as with most Vlautin songs, this thematic certainty is reinforced in Roll Back My Life with such a melodic beauty that as listeners we somehow manage to keep our heads just above annihilation, the lyrics as spare and yet complete as always,

Roll back my life
Past all those years
Of just scraping by
And pour me a drink
Turn down the lights

And roll back my life
Roll back my life
So I can see where not to stall
I can see how not to fall
For those who I did fall
Roll back my life

In Eddie and Polly there is musical irony in its early 60s echo, a hint of the upbeat with the jingle of bells and a repeat chorus of can’t you see?, but in a storytelling that ends with such potent imagery as this is how the hurt become maimed we are in familiar territory, that pedal steel here now, it too ironic in ostensibly eschewing the lamentation.

It is wonderful to hear Amy Boone gracing the dark with her light, a vocal that speaks to the truth of each song’s narrative, not spoken but there are no lavish runs, and this clear-as-truly-felt delivery adds an authentic stoicism as well as tender understanding. Wonderful too that she has returned to performance from injuries sustained in a car accident.

One of the most dramatic of songs, musically speaking with its crescendo of determination, is That Old Haunted Place, a tale of failure and blame and the recurring theme of trying to move on from the inevitable, here a decision-making from someone who left home at sixteen who might just make it, away that is but likely not from the unavoidable to come.

Penultimate He Don’t Burn for Me is painfully simple and true, a soulful song of regret at the loss of love painted in the description of ordinary and everyday heartbreak. And oh those horns, swaying together in the melodic line to just about hold us all from falling, a final burst as the song finishes to massage as much as is humanly possible.  

Closer Waiting on the Blue is the poetry of late night inevitability, the slow sad keyboard of Gray wrapped tight with Boon’s beautiful weariness, the horns like distant sirens called out to the painfulness.

Another memorable album from Vlautin, Boone and fine band. Available right now here [and you can listen too].

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Into the Distance Music 85

Blue Cheer - The '67 Demos


Three tracks packing more punch than dynamite, to call these demos raw and loud would be tautologous. What they are this morning is a raucous early morning wake-up of glorious fuzz and screamed vocal. It only takes three for a tumultuous musical tango. The birth of much heaviness to follow and reign forever. Summertime Blues is as ever blistering, guitar-siren flashing.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Fuzzy Grass - 1971, album review

Lointain, Sort Of

By sixth track The Winter Haze we are thoroughly riff-hooked, with every song pretty much panning out to wall-to-wall psychedelic-blues noise, fuzzed as one would expect from the band’s name, but also elasticated throughout with wah-wah.

Tipped into this mode from the off, closer Shake Your Mind is riff-rife too, more a pounding forward shove than a classic repeating pattern, and as on all tracks, vocalist Audric Faucheux is his own forward drive of energy in a constant near-yell, occasionally joined by MS20 electronics from the band’s drummer.

It is genuinely no criticism to state there are few nuances here. Laura Luiz is a stand-out on guitar, addicted as I am to the two generic rock effects already stated, and Thomas Hobeck on bass and Clément Gaudry-Santiago on drums bring up the rocket on pulsing thrusters of rhythm.

A French quartet from Toulouse playing the universal language of far-out.

Eye Music 34

Friday, 21 December 2018

Some Awe's Best Of 2018

A little different this year - no prelims, and initially a list in chronological order of reviewing in 2018 on the basis that if I reviewed I like a lot [and it is still a selection from all reviewed], then a small list of those releases I intended to review but didn't for whatever reason, and might still do. Perhaps a top 5 or so at end, but I haven't decided... Clicking on album titles will take you to their reviews:

Richmond Fontaine - Don't Skip Out On Me
Joan as Police Woman - Damned Devotion
Andy Sheppard Quartet - Romaria
Chris Smither - Call Me Lucky
David Munyon - Planetary Nights
Kurt Elling - The Questions
Courtney Marie Andrews - May Your Kindness Remain
Ryley Walker - Deafman Glance
Nigel Kennedy - Kennedy Meets Gershwin
Lamont Dozier - Reimagination
Al Swainger's Pointless Beauty - After & Before
Kamasi Washington - Heaven & Earth
Marcus Miller - Laid Back
Jimmy LaFave - Peace Town
Steve Tilston - Distant Days
Boz Scaggs - Out Of The Blues
Oh Sees - Smote Reverser
Paul Simon - In the Blue Light
John Smith - Hummingbird
Connan Mockasin - Jassbusters
Paul Weller - True Meanings
David Crosby - Here If You Listen

Bruce Springsteen - Springsteen On Broadway
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams - Vanished Gardens
Cowboy Junkies - All That Reckoning
Darryl Way - Vivaldi's Four Seasons In Rock
Gretchen Peters - Dancing With The Beast
Josh T. Pearson - The Straight Hits!
Kandace Springs – Indigo
Lucy Rose - Something's Changing (Remixes)
Marianne Faithfull - Negative Capability
Mary Chapin Carpenter - Sometimes Just The Sky
Neneh Cherry - Broken Politics
Paolo Fresu Devil Quartet - Carpe Diem
Public Image Limited - The Public Image Is Rotten Songs From The Heart
Ray Davies - Our Country; Americana Act II
Richard Thompson - 13 Rivers
Roger Daltrey - As Long As I Have You
Roxy Coss - The Future Is Female
Ry Cooder - The Prodigal Son
Soft Machine - Hidden Details
St. Paul & The Broken Bones - Young Sick Camellia
The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices – BooCheeMish
The Temperance Movement - A Deeper Cut
The Temptations - All The Time
Tim Garland - Weather Walker

Top Five 

Lamont Dozier – Reimagination: it’s the one I have played the most since first hearing, and though hard to separate these new versions from the greatness of their origins, I think Lamont does distinguish them through his own vocal and that of guests, for example Gregory Porter and, surprisingly [as I mention in review] Cliff Richards!

Chris Smither – Call Me Lucky: one of the greatest living singer-songwriters and superb guitarist, and I shall be seeing him again in January.

Low – Double Negative: I have become almost a complete softy in my overall tastes – my love of ‘pretty’ music – but I still do like it very heavy [the Oh Sees in list more than a token] and this album merges the beauty of harmony with the scorching noise of what accompanies it. Also probably my most apt review, inasmuch as what I 'feel' when listening is captured in what I say about it, this encapsulation I would be the first to admit I do not always achieve, though some music doesn't necessitate/warrent it.

John Smith – Hummingbird: probably the most perfect folk album that didn’t get produced by either John Martyn or Bert Jansch back in the day [and Ryley’s this year has a large jazz influence].

Steve Tilston – Distant Days: because he is one of our greatest folk artists as singer-songwriter and guitarist and this is as good as his first two gems, accepting the revisits.

David Crosby – Here if You Listen: I know, but he is like the secret track at the end of the album, and Crosby’s latest signals my leaning to the past and honouring those still producing their same excellence, as this does beautifully.