Acid-folk artist Tom Wilson and producer Michael Timmins (Cowboy Junkies) have conjured a dark electric sound for Wilson’s third album under the Lee Harvey Osmond name. Timmins’ production layers piano and guitar over a heavy bottom end, creating a musically cavernous space in which Wilson touches upon the poetic delivery of Leonard Cohen, the downtown sound of Tom Waits, and the more frightening regions of Captain Beefheart’s growl. Wilson is hypnotic as he stretches out over rhythm-rich tracks of drums and bass, pushed along by reeds and guitar, and punctuated by echos, reverb and stabs of backward guitar.
The acid and folk of acid-folk are heard back to back in “Oh the Gods” and “Dreams Come and Go,” as the spacey guitars and close-miked vocal of the former give way to the acoustic picking of the latter. The contrast is stark, no doubt purposely so, but with a blue mood that ties the songs together. The closing couplet of “Black Spruce” and “Bottom of Our Love” offers the same dynamic, the former expanding into a flute and blues jam, and the latter a weary acoustic lament. It’s the sort of contrast Led Zeppelin employed, though with vocals whose power is in their reserve rather than their ostentation.
“Loser Without Your Love” is both assured and distracted as it’s forced to admit “I’m just a loser without your love… I guess.” The vocal ellipsis doubts the statement’s sincerity, and the song’s instrumental playout leaves time for additional pondering. It’s a great opening to an album whose performance is comfortable with its confessions, if not always certain of their truth. Echo and distortion on the guitars and voices balance the supple rhythm grooves, and the acoustic bass and vibraphone of “Blue Moon Drive” soothe cool, whispered vocals that still manage to ring with passion.
Wilson doesn’t easily let go of his memories, seeming to dangle at the mercy of what was rather than what is or what could be. He pulls at his chains but can’t break free, a struggle echoed in the balance of insinuating music beds and shocks of backwards guitar. The disintegration of “Hey Hey Hey” is as much the lives of two individuals as of their pairing, and the conciliatory “How Does it Feel” has the subversive low notes of Lee Hazlewood. In his mid-50s, Wilson seems to have realized that it may be too late to remake himself, but it’s the right time to get comfortable with the scars that makes him who he is. [©2016 Hyperbolium]