Sunday, 14 April 2013

David Munyon and Mary's Band - Meanwhile, Back in Japan

Munyon's Musical World

I first made a passing reference to David Munyon on this site very recently when mentioning his song Hare Krishna Christmas which linked through a coincidental listen to the album Quintessence I was reviewing at the time. That Munyon song came from his last released album David Munyon & Mary’s Band Meanwhile, Back in Japan from 2010. This features the love ballads and folkblues of his own fine songcraft and the individual vocal that does so much to distinguish his work.

The album begins with a relatively upbeat honkytonk track This Is California Baby which rocks along to some sassy sax. The next two, Cafeteria Blues and Finally Scotland, immediately places us in what seems more familiar territory, and the former is a beautifully simple love song though the narrative is a complex story, it seems, of yearning for the real and a past that was more certain,

I wish it would be 1957 again
And I had a brand new Chevrolet
And DJs playing the record that they wanted to
We could dance to Little Richard and his tunes again

The second also reflects back to being 19 years old – real or imagined, it doesn’t matter – and it is another lovely song, this time piano-driven with a tale of love and loss. There is some fine electric guitar work from Mick Hutchings, and flute from Tony Ardin. Similar electric guitar broadens the sound on folk tale Song For Dora Mae.

Fifth Pretty Blue is an acoustic love song, and one inspired, as Munyon recalls, by a prayer to his god and a wish for a number one song to help him support his family. Munyon’s Christianity and other spiritual affinities are obviously an important aspect of his muse, but they never intrude, and he certainly never preaches. Whatever Love Munyon worships and wishes upon others clearly gets transmuted warmly through his music and his secular stories of relationships/family.

Sixth is Hank Williams Taught Me How To Play Guitar, and this is a lively blues homage to influence, and underpinned by the fact that Munyon used to [and perhaps still does] live in a trailer owned by Hank Williams Senior. Seventh OK To Love is a consummate Munyon song: slow and simple, but highlighted by his vocal, the guile of such straightforward songwriting, and the storytelling here which is a tale of love that is both illusory and yet real, the message indefatigably declaring that however this is found it is to be treasured for whatever comfort it delivers.

Eighth is the gorgeous Hare Krishna Christmas and seems to recall Munyon’s Army service in Germany in the early 70s as well as his residency there during his adult life, historical points linked to other life experiences. References to the autobahn and Heidelberg have an extra poignancy for me, recalling my time there as a youngster in the mid-60s, living in Karlsruhe not that far south of Heidelberg – a tenuous connection, but one that seems to resonate along the similar conduit of memories his song so tenderly evokes for himself.

Ninth Bollywood Dreams ups the pace with sustained rock guitar, and tenth Hey Love is a country rock jaunt, so the album has its variations. The album’s title track is at eleven, and this too rides the increased tempo, reggae rhythms and other electronic sounds maintaining a break from acoustic introspection. It’s a foot-tapping healthy hiatus.

Twelfth Painting For You returns us to the acoustic balladry, Hutchings’ electric licks providing an atmospheric overlay to the lyrical rumination on love again, with Munyon invoking the idea of painting to reflect both his imagist’s encapsulation of love and his actual other artistic endeavour as a painter. I do like the simple suggestiveness here,

You can call me frequently
I have a borrowed phone
You could tell me stories
Some of your own
You could wear that negligee
And my favourite perfume
We could just hold each other’s hands
Playin’ in each other’s moods

The penultimate track is a neat harmonica-fuelled number, The American Blues, and the album closes on sweet San Francisco In The Heart, a reminiscence on the hippie city of love and the real love in a relationship: she danced awhile in the kitchen and we moved around some shelves painting the simple and domestic scenery that so dominates what Munyon makes so memorable in his wonderful musical world. 

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