Once you get beyond the (fine) artwork on the sleeve that might lead some to presume this is a long lost prog rock classic there’s a little gem concealed within with a sultry and slow Americana burn. Pardekooper is so laid back as to be almost horizontal, J.J. Cale comes to mind here although there is little similarity in their music. A more appropriate comparison might be to the laid back country blues of Ramsay Midwood coupled with the sinewy and sultry sound of Lucinda Williams. No surprise then to find out that the album is produced by Williams’ occasional collaborator, Bo Ramsay. Ramsay indeed provides some scintillating and spine tingling guitar throughout.
Pardekoopers’ songs have apparently been picked up by the likes of the True Blood TV series and he does provide that occasional sense of menace but overall this is a handsome set of well delivered and well written southern gothic sounds steeped in sin and redemption, low lit neon dives and cold light of day regrets. Pardekooper delivers the lyrics with a husk in his voice, half spoken, half sung while the band slowly burn. Several of the songs are immediately impressive, the opening Where I Come From sets the bar pretty high as Pardekooper croons over such a sweet guitar lick with a fine sense of ennui. The sloppy blues of the title song burrows its way into the listeners ear while Walk Away is a perfect example of cryptic story telling with sublime guitar and a grand resigned air. A great album and recommended for those who dig the likes of Jim White and the deep American south.
David Huckfelt and Benson Ramsay are The Pines, a duo based in Minneapolis. They are currently touring the UK and appearing in Glasgow on December 1st. On this, their third album they are joined by an impressive band who conjure up a great rootsy sound that resembles Bob Dylan’s recent forays into America’s folk and blues past particularly on Time Out of Mind. Of particular note is the guitar playing of Bo Ramsay (album producer and father of Benson). On Lonesome Tremolo Blues he plays spectacular slide guitar but throughout his playing is a delight while J.T. Bates on drums, James Buckley, bass and Alex Ramsay (another family member) on keyboards provide a sympathetic bedrock.
Vocally Ramsay and Huckfelt resemble Dylan or at times John Prine, their parched voices sound vulnerable, earnest and honest and they draw you in to the songs which by and large are all outstanding. For the most part these are moonlit poems set to crepuscular music. Twilight hymns that tell no stories but which are packed with arresting images, mysterious allusions and overall a sense of alienation and loss. At times one feels as if one were listening to the poems of W. B. Yeats set to music. Even when they play what appears to be a simple love song as on Hearts and Bones the lyrics seem more like a script for a surrealist movie
Last night you were in my dreams/Heart and bones/When I woke up you were next to me/Heart and bones/Blood is red and the sky is blue/Heart and bones/And I’ve never met anyone like you/Heart and bones/Big bright moon over old St. Paul/Heart and bones/I met you when the apples fall/Heart and bones.
There are two cover songs on the album, “Spider” John Koerner’s Skipper and His Wife and Mississippi John Hurt’s Spike Driver Blues are given fairly straightforward run-throughs with the latter reinforcing the John Prine comparison, both sit well in the overall feel of the album but in the end it is the Pines’ own songs which stand out.
This is a tremendous album, one of the best of the year and there is an opportunity to see this duo on their first UK tour as they play in Glasgow on December 1st at the Woodend Bowling Club supported by the Wynntown Marshals (a definite bonus there).
Lonesome Tremolo Blues