The dream-like title track of Mando Saenz’s new album, All My Shame, opens with jangly psychedelic guitar strums that halt momentarily to create a distance and an ambivalence that spiral into a hallucinogenic breathlessness as the song climbs toward its crescendo. The opening notes recall The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” but the song floats into the spaciness of Joe Walsh, with instrumental snatches of “Walk Away” and the studied lyrical indifference of “Life’s Been Good to Me.”
The sonic landscape of the title track contains within it the many musical perspectives through which Saenz drives us on All My Shame. On the album’s opening, he drops us off in “The Deep End,” a Steve Earle-meets-Dwight Yoakam rockabilly folk song that takes a gospel-inflected turn in the final measure with Maureen Murphy’s call-and-response vocals. Shimmering guitars float under the meandering and slowly unspooling gypsy folk lessons of “Cautionary Tale”; the hauntingly bright arrangement belies the gravity, or at least the somber reflection, of the lyrics.
Bright guitars snake under “Shadow Boxing,” a poppy tune that’s by turns jaunty and sedate and that combines echoes of Celtic folk and British invasion rock, while “The More I Need” is a straight-ahead minor-chord rocker riding along the waves of regret.
The album closes with Saenz’s spare and mellow take on Ronnie James’ “Rainbow in the Dark” featuring Saenz on acoustic and vocals floating over a bed of strings. Saenz’s almost elegiac version sends chills and evokes the desperate loneliness of the singer: “There’s no sign of the morning coming / You’ve been left on your own / Like a rainbow in the dark / Like a rainbow in the dark.”
All My Shame demonstrates Saenz’s ingenious ability to capture the many facets of the human condition in lyrics and music that carry us to the depths of loneliness and to the heights of love and freedom.