Burying the Dead
Sorrow touched alt.country blues slide out against the guitar, and first note down, I’m lost.
Richard McGraw has a soft voice, touched with a road weary rasp and a knowledge of time that has passed. It brings Tom Waits to mind, like Heartattack and Vine, but even more, I can hear the sounds and stylings of Eric Bachmann (Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers). It’s in the background, though, as Richard definitely goes his own way. He may be driving a beat up truck down some of the same roads, but he definitely turns off onto lesser known side streets.
There are nods of the songwriting hat to the darker folk ballads of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen, and even a very nice cover of Cohen’s “The Faith” and a slight re-write of “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” under the new McGraw title of “Balmville Motel.” There’s also a beautiful cover of Billy Joel’s “My Life” that moves slow and steady under a cloud of sadness that’s brightened by a little hope, sunshine, and wonderful background vocals.
This is the kind of folk music that I understand. It’s deep and heartfelt, it’s lyrical, poetic, and melodic, and the instruments that push out under the vocals come together perfectly. The bass moves like dusk, the guitar slides like a sunset. Then there are the slightly unexpected touches that move between the songs, pushing the album past the point of being just another beautiful dark country touched folk album. The Wurlitzer, the accordion, the violin, viola, banjo and bowed bass. Of course the musicians help out as well. The ever present Jay Foote on bass, Richard Lee and Angela Webster trading off songs for drum duty, and, of course, everyone else. Too many to mention, but everyone should be thanked.
There are some wonderful ties to the sadness and heartache and raw honesty that are found on albums by Vic Chesnutt, but here the push and pull are definitely more touched by the spin of the highway lines. This is a sad trip through the American heartlands, looking for answers, looking for questions, but the sadness is well weathered and almost appreciated. This is one of those albums that shows you that the more difficult the journey is, the more enjoyable the destination can be.
More by this writer:
The Unwinding Hours - The Unwinding Hours
Brian Jonestown Massacre - Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?
Four Tet - There Is Love In You
The Maldives - Listen to the Thunder