Sandman – Love’s Hangover Sale
Artists who spend too much time living idealized versions of other people’s pasts — say, Riders in the Sky, new jackshit swing bands, or eleventh-generation punk heroes — rarely get the music right. The clothes are easy. The past is as tantalizing and unknowable as the person (or pillow) you sleep next to and, in any event, the nebulous act of creation is inevitably a vision of the future, even if it seeks to recreate the past.
Courtesy Billy Bragg & Wilco, we’re do for a spate of Woody Guthrie revivalism, which, if it inspires people to pick up guitars and write topical songs again, isn’t all bad. That is, if their songs aren’t about hoboing and union miners.
Enter, two paragraphs late, Chris Sand. Evidently a Montana-bred songwriter, Sandman has fallen in with the lo-fi DIY crowd in Olympia, Washington (think Beat Happening and Bikini Kill). Love’s Hangover Sale, presumably his debut, is the fruit of that unexpectedly fruitful union. His topical Guthrie-isms fuse easily with a slight beatnik cadence that, tossed together with (as he sings in the delightful concluding “Two Key-Chains”) everything from Elvis and Beck, produces a thoroughly contemporary vision of the itinerant minstrel.
Or, more simply, Sandman has a plain-spoken voice, plays with words like a chef dicing fresh onion, plays a simple and effective guitar, and deftly manages to revisit the works of songwriters both classic (Utah Phillips and Jimmie Rodgers) and modern (Ben Harper), without subordinating his own intriguing voice. Except when he tries out Ernest Tubb’s “Thanks A Lot”. Uh, no thanks.
“M For Montana”, Sandman’s update of Rodgers’ “T For Texas”, is the most transparent example of that fusion. Yes, it’s the classic song, but the words and the singer’s presentation of those words make no attempt to revisit the 1930s. His straight originals are even better, notably the title track, “Hole Digger”, and “Tractor Pull”, all of which arise from the same dusty world Guthrie wrote about without being mired in the dust of Guthrie’s tradition.