Blabber’n’Smoke last encountered LA based Ernest Troost when we reviewed his fine Live At McCabe’s album two years ago. An Emmy award winning film and TV composer Troost is also a natural talent when it comes to folk blues guitar picking and singing with all three of his previous albums recommended. O Love maintains the standard and adds a tougher edge on occasion as Troost ventures into rockier ground with a couple of the songs featuring him on electric slide guitar (which he plays quite wickedly) along with a rhythm section. The first of these, the opening Old Screen Door, fairly rips along sounding not a million miles removed from the rockabilly noir of Jace Everett as Troost paints a grisly family crime scene where “The snakes were hissin’ in the hedges/ the rats whispered ‘neath the floor/ and the moon was just watchin’/ through the old screen door.” With its scatter gun guitar breaks it’s pretty thrilling stuff. Weary Traveller is another band effort, this time a tumbleweed strewn southern romp with lap steel guitar snaking throughout while the title song seesaws along with nimble finger picking pitching in between a highway rush of wailing guitar which recalls the likes of Twilight Hotel.
For the remainder of the album we’re in more familiar territory, particularly if you have a copy of the Live at McCabe’s album as there are no fewer than six songs here that Troost initially unveiled back then (odd as usually it’s the other way around with live versions following the studio effort). However here the songs are retooled, some more than others with Bitter Wind getting an added bass drum kick and Storm Coming revamped as a bluesy growl while O Love gets the makeover mentioned above. Aided and abetted by several of the players who appeared on the live album, in particular Nicole Gordon who sings harmony on the majority of the songs here along with Mark Goldberg on bass and Debra Dokin on drums along with a crack crew of LA music veterans Troost delivers some excellent songs.
Close is a classic country rock love song with rippling guitars, jaunty mandolin and classic harmony sounds that sends sunshine vibes through the speakers while Harlan County Boys is more dappled with an Appalachian air and an antiquarian feel as Troost recalls the perils of mining and union struggles. The Last To Leave is as good a country waltz as we’ve heard for some time and comes with the appropriate sense of lost love and hurt. Troost hits the mark time and time again revisiting the sunshine vibe with I’ll Be Home Soon and twanging his guitar on the spiritual lament of All I Ever Wanted.
Troost says that the songs on O Love are “a collection of love songs, viewing love from different angles.” Strange angles indeed when death and loss sit side by side with the joy of a song like Close. However love is expressed in different ways at different times and Troost has captured its highs and lows perfectly here on an album that sees him very much in form.