It’s not often that one comes across a debut album from a 53 year old. It’s even rarer for that album to be a stone cold cracker, an instant classic (if such a thing exists), an album that immediately rewards and then gets better on repeated listens. Well, David Corley has achieved this with Available Light, ten songs of experience and at 53 Corley has a lot of experience under his belt. Raised in Lafayette, Indiana, Corley attended the University of Georgia leaving at the age of 20 after a series of “ecstatic visionary and mystical experiences” if we are to believe the biography. There followed 30 years of wanderlust and odd jobs coupled with a voracious reading and writing habit. Following cardiac problems he returned to Lafayette which brings us up to date and to the album.
Produced by Canadian Hugh Christopher Brown Available Light is an album that shuffles and stumbles with a wonderful, almost homemade charm. That’s not to say it’s lo-fi, indeed its wonderfully warm and organic, meandering for its 55 minutes in a magnificent manner. Corley’s voice is lived in, deep but not rough, a gruffer version of Willard Grant Conspiracy’s Robert Fisher while his delivery (and some of the song arrangements) remind one of John Murry on The Graceless Age.
The band (Gregor Beresford, drums, Tony Scherr, bass, Kate Fenner and Sarah McDermott, background vocals and Hugh Christopher Brown on piano, hammond b-3, clavinet, wurlitzer, and vocals) create a fine Southern sound similar to the sounds created by Eddie Hinton and Tony Joe White, swampy, blues infused and soulful with the female vocalists perfectly complementing Corley’s vocals. A highpoint is acheived on the tender Lean, a song that eschews the rumbling guitars that weave like Virginia Creepers throughout the album for a short piano led ballad with Corley’s voice emotion packed amid excellent female harmonies. Here Corley waxes poetically, possibly influenced by Walt Whitman as he sings
the river moves
through the sand archives
i might have been holding her up –
i’m not gonna this time
i relinquish control
i think it softens my eye
i believe in the power of this moment
but i let it wash over the bow
you got to lean into it
Corley is able to deliver a relatively straightforward narrative as on the dream like Easy Mistake where he opens the song with
I hopped up into my truck
but I headed to the wrong bar
got way too fucked-up
started wishin’ on the wrong star
– but the sky, man, it’s so large….
that’s just an easy mistake
but many of the lyrics on the album have a poetic quality from the “life as a movie” quality of the opening title song to the closing epic The Calm Revolution where Corley seems to allude to climate change. Married to the cool crisp funk of the title song or the hazy shimmering guitars of the seven and a half minute closer the words flow as easily as the music creating an atmosphere that is nothing less than magical. Definitely an early contender for an album of the year.