This is a fine collection of tales from Kentuckian Mark Lucas. Bare boned musically for the most part the dominant sounds are Dobro (from Bleu Mortensen) and fiddle (Jenee Fleenor) with occasional banjo and mandolin. Lucas sings of a dark and mysterious world where death and the devil lurk and where strange things happen in the shadows although he tosses in a few lighter hearted rambles to sweeten the mix. Every Day I Have The Greens is a Guy Clark styled jolly romp that does for veg what Clark did for home grown tomatoes while Grits and Redeye Gravy is a wonderful paean to a diner peopled with a vibrant list of characters.
“Mac taps his skullbone, they all fought in Korea, Mac took some lead, he’s got a steel-plate that can tell the weather, he picks up Louisiana Hayride in his head.”
Fine and jolly as these are they are merely the gravy for the meat of this album. The jaunty banjo introduction to the opening title song leads us into a tale as old as the Greek myths as Lucas tells of fiddler Orphie Coulter who begs the Devil to return his lover but who makes the fatal mistake of looking back and ends up fiddling in Hell for eternity. Superbly delivered with Flenee’s fiddle playing full of fire it’s a cracking opener. Lucas slows the tempo for the scintillating Take Me Back, Water where the Dobro shines like a light in the darkness highlighting a sad tale of a nymph tortured for her ability to shed tears of pearls and who ultimately escapes.
“Rocks sewn in the pockets of her coat, she walked down to the river, got in a boat. A hunter’s moon shone, the oars creaked and moaned and a song echoed out through the cove. Take me back, water, take me back home, wash off this flesh and bleach out the bones, hold me down like a stone, take me back, take me home.” Great stuff.
Elsewhere there’s the archetypal tale of a traveller meeting the Grim Reaper on the woozy waltz that is Hezekiah while Big Bad Love is a chilling description of the tragic end to a troubled couple who fight and fuck. With sinister pedal steel and a gritty blues feel this is the aural equivalent of a Weegee Crime scene picture. The bluesy vibe continues on Pick Up which tells of a spurned wife who poisons her philandering husband and which cleverly uses the McGuffin of mobile phones which allow her to know he’s cheating and affords her a cold revenge as she calls his phone which is buried with him.
With a firm strong voice and some superb playing from his band Lucas has delivered a gem of an album which deserves to be held in the same respect as those by the likes of Gurf Morlix or Ray Wylie