Vic Chesnutt, who died of an overdose in 2009, was one of the best and most unusual songwriters of his generation. Country-rock veterans Cowboy Junkies are far more conventional. So Chesnutt diehards might not find much to like in this collection of his songs, but the album may provide newcomers a bridge to his work.
fashionable for 21st-century blues guitarists to blow you away with
fretboard pyrotechnics. But Dave Specter harkens to the previous
century, when players like Steve Cropper and B. B. King moved listeners
with a handful of heartfelt notes. The horns, smoky organ and sublime
guitar on "Stick to the Hip" suggest Booker T.
Himmelman's gifts for melody, lyrical poignancy and spiritual depth are
rare among singer-songwriters. He can also rock: "Motel Room in
Davenport" chugs like a freight train, while "Good Luck Charm" mixes
white-boy rapping and an anvil-heavy beat into a solid groove.
We practiced at “The Decontam”— clumsy name for an ugly place—bare concrete rooms buried beneath a protective pyramid mound of soil, turf, and God knows what, designated sanctuary nonetheless for any unlucky enough “in the event of nuclear attack” to survive the initial blast and burn to reach this subterranean space of hollow refuge. The Station Decontamination Centre—to rhyme the place in full, an—as yet—unfrequented location (praises be . . .) where, Tuesday nights, an ill-assorted crew of horns and woodwinds—sackbuts, cornets, clarinets, even the occasional bassoon—would fumble-stumble along through “Colonel Bogey,” “The RAF March Past,” old favorites from Gilbert and Sullivan, “Chu Chin Chow,” and Noel Coward, rehearsing for the CO’s garden party, full-dress dinner evenings at the Mess. They echoed so, those naked rooms and sounding corridors, as if our music might drown out—yes, decontaminate—the cold, blind fury cradled tight beneath the wings of our sleek avenging bombers; full squadrons perched above in laden readiness, paying no heed to our hapless melodies and marches.