Daughn Gibson – All Hell

In the same way that James Blake brought R&B into the post-techno age, Daughn Gibson is aiming to do the same with country music. So says his record label. Or, rather, labl. Even though there’s a sense with this album that one vowel is always unnecessarily absent, it’s an intriguing listen. The vocals are 50s-era baritone. Or Scott Walker, if you prefer. There’s a drum beat over samples of old country songs. It shouldn’t work. But it nearly does. It works a lot better than old country songs. There’s nothing maudlin about the sound. There are scratches from the original recordings. There’s often a piano, but always syncopated with the rhythm. Yes, there are lyrics about terminally ill children, but, honestly, it’s not a depressing listen. Singing over orchestrated samples of old country albums, there’s nothing remotely like it. And yet, Mr Gibson manages to make it insufferably cold. It’s not a depressing listen, but there’s no cheer either. Nothing welcoming. Nothing to like. To love. And not because of the old country samples. But because of the post-techno production. Take the title track with its lyrics about terminally ill children. In old country songs, you might start off indifferent to the story that unfolds, but in the end you’d care at least a little. You’d feel something. Here, you feel the same at the end of this song as you did at the beginning. There is something genuinely captivating about this album. Something stylistically unique. But nothing emotionally rewarding. And in the end good music has to illicit some sort of emotional response.

Daughn Gibson – official website

Jack White – Blunderbuss

This is unmistakably a Jack White album. The thin voice. The cold production. This is unmistakably a Jack White album. The angry riffs. The aggrieved, cutting, remorseless riffs. This time, there’s plenty of reason to be angry. The lyrics capture the break up with Karen Elson or perhaps Meg White. Allegedly. “I hear a whistle, that’s how I know she’s home. Lipstick, eyelash, broke mirror, broken home”. Ouch. “She don’t care what kind of wounds she’s inflicted on me. She don’t care what color bruises that she’s leavin’ on me. She’s got freedom in the 21st century”. Oucher still. Well, the Karen Elson album that you produced was full of murder ballads. Allegedly. So, Mr White, what did you expect? ‘Sixteen Saltines’ is the classic Jack White song. All bluster. But while there’s plenty of drums and guitars, there’s more to the music than just that. ‘Love Interruption’ reads brutally, but sounds composed. Keyboards. Acoustic guitar. Backing vocals. ‘Blunderbuss’ suggests it should be the noisiest, fearsomest track on the album. But with its backing of pedal steel guitar and double bass, it just lies on its back and waves its legs in the air. And that’s what works. Thirteen angry guitar-driven songs might have been very cathartic for Mr White, but it would soon have outstayed its welcome. Like someone you let sleep on your couch because they’re having a tough time, but who you soon want to kick out because they sure do moan a lot. You wouldn’t wish on anyone the obvious pain and torment that provides the background to these songs. But they sure make for a great album. Allegedly.

Jack White – official site

Simone Felice

As part of The Felice Brothers, Simone inhabits the shadier part of town. Not quite the wrong side of the tracks, but close by. Guns are either present or not very far away. Simone and his brothers, Ian and James, get into situations their mother probably warned them against. There’s usually drama in the songs. It makes for interesting listening. Recording as The Duke and The King, Simone Felice is in a much more benign place. Topanga Canyon circa 1975. At home with bands such as Dawes, Maplewood, and the arch-revivalist, the magnificent Jonathan Wilson, the mood is laid back. Hazy. With a slightly acrid smell in the air. His mother probably warned him against plenty of things that are going on there as well, but, on balance, she’d probably be happier he’s there and not in the other place. Now, Simone Felice has released his first self-titled project. The sounds don’t stray too far from the canyons, but the cast of characters suggests that he’s been hooking up again with his brothers. On ‘New York Times’ he sings about a 35-year old from New Jersey who “with a thirty-thirty, found them girls rehearsing in a ballet school, And when he bust in and point his musket he turned the lilly white muslin into bright red bloom”. Other characters include Bobby Ray, a rapist; Dawn Brady and her son who, guess what, has a gun and you know he’s gonna use it; Hetti Blackbird, an Indian from South Dakota who steals a gold Range Rover; Sharon Tate and Charlie Manson, and we know what happens there; and, most frighteningly of all, Courtney Love. Simone imagines himself in a relationship with the lonely Ms Love. ‘Take a chance and come away with me’, he sings. ‘I’ll work construction’. Suffice to say, there’s no sign of a happy ending. Mr Felice, it’s your mother on the phone again.

Simone Felice – Official website