Aw Come Aw Wry
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Matthew Houck carves out an enchanting corner of Americana on his second full-length with Phosphorescent. In an expressive, cracking voice that is sometimes reminiscent of John Roderick, Will Sheff and sub-genre godfather Will Oldham, Houck guides listeners through late-night barroom ballads and lots of hymnal beauty.
The instrumental title track appears three times—given three very different set dressings, ranging from mournful to hoedown—throughout the album, and its echo is heard even more frequently, serving as a thread that makes Aw Come Aw Wry feel like one big single work. It is largely a somber affair, but the starkness of the mood is not matched by the instrumentation. Instead, Houck is backed by pump organs and pedal steels and even flourishes of horns and backing choirs. He builds a definite arc into the album, starting on deliberately unsteady footing (“Not A Heel”), building into the rousing front-center of the album (“Joe Tex, These Taming Blues,” “I Am a Full Grown Man (I Will Lay in the Grass All Day)”), and then settling in for the pastoral, organ-and-choir-heavy second half (“Lost Name,” “Endless Pt. 2”). In the latter stretch, “South (of America)” is an emotional highpoint, with Houck channeling My Morning Jacket for his background harmony. Houck’s vision falters and slips into self-indulgence only on the 19-minute field recording that closes the album.
What precedes those 19 minutes of presumably significant nothingness (or everythingness), is likely one of 2005’s most affecting albums of its kind. “Americana” isn’t quite the appropriate tag, but there is something distinctly American about Aw Come Aw Wry, something that sounds like woods and gravel roads and back porches and rickety saloon pianos and whiskey in unmarked bottles. In other words, it sounds both familiar and foreign. It sounds good.
Phosphorescent - Interview
More by this writer:
Shearwater - Interview
The Twilight Singers - A Stitch in Time
Beth Orton - Comfort Of Strangers
The Wrens - Live - December 3, 2005