RSL 2011 Music Picks
Best of the First-Half Nominee...
This one is a full, diverse songwriting effort from the skilled David Lowery - unbelievably, this is the solo debut from the prolific co-founder of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. After just a few listens its possible to hear years of work in this effort - it wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that Lowery has another album's worth of material in the queue behind this one.
In many ways Lowery is an ace of laying his heart bare. One of his primary tools has been the expert use of hyperbole - as evidenced by the litany of images he lays out for readers.... On "Marigold," Lowery talks of the ridiculous lengths he has gone to for the girl's love. On "I Sold the Arabs The Moon," we hear the same enthusiasm but stretched over a Neil Gaimen-like tale of epic proportions. A real spiritual performance - a beautiful, sweeping number.
The Palace Guards is out now on 429 Records, an imprint on the Savoy Label Group (SLG). SLG is the North American unit of Columbia Music Entertainment (formerly Nippon Columbia) the oldest music company in Japan.
Having recently seen Lowery perform with both Cracker and Camper on tour and hearing a party track like, "Baby, All Those Girls Meant Nothing To Me," it's difficult for me to think of Lowery as a 50 year old. There is hope for us all as we grow older. If only Lowery could bottle some of his boundless creative energy. Some of that vitality on the Palace Guards resulted from Lowery's collaborations; in studio with John Morand and Alan Weatherhead. And, key players included Miguel Urbiztondo on drums, David Immergluck on guitars and bass, Craig Harmon played organs and Ferd Moyse on upright bass and fiddle. Special guest appearances include Cracker mates Sal Maida and Johnny Hickman as well as the late Mark Linkous who played keybords on “Big Life.” In other words, this is an all-star effort which Lowery, predictably, will credit as a group endeavor in interviews... rather than to call it a "solo effort." Regardless of what you label The Palace Guards, it's easily one of the year's best releases to date. And in February it beat out amazing music projects from The Decemberists, Cold War Kids and David Wax Museum (amongst others) in our eyes for Album of the Month.
TITLE TRACK - Interesting that the eponymous single, possibly the best song on the album was actually the one to grab me last. (But grab me best, as it turns out.) Lowery's pen is sharpened on "The Palace Guards." On this field he challenges listeners to look at their relationships to those with the keys to locked doors. By this, I refer to the people who make us feel secure/safe. Easily the most pointed track on the record, The Palace Guards veils, in it's sing-song, a quiet resentment against losing control. You can choose to read this as a criticism of a big brother government. Think, Terror Alert Levels fueled by Fear. (Recall, this album is an effort years in the making) or you can also hear this as a one-sided tale of dysfunctional, controlling relationship. "Smash your stuff..." , "hide your passports and put you on a no-fly list." (You know, to keep her safe and where she belongs.) Listen to it more than once; this work is layered and heavy. And yet, there is something artful and deft about it as well. Highly Recommended.