Glory Fountain – American beauty
When Lynn Blakey sings the word “beauty” on the title track of the new Glory Fountain release The Beauty Of 23, it’s an onomatopoetic moment. Hers is a lovely, crystal-clarion voice, and one that, in addition to carrying her own compositions, has blessed songs by Alejandro Escovedo (a handful of A Man Under The Influence cuts, including some with her Tres Chicas partners Caitlin Cary and Tonya Lamm), Velvet Crush (she haunts their “Weird Summer”), and Mercury Dime (the Gram Parsons tribute “The Garden Of Memories”).
On The Beauty Of 23, just as on Glory Fountain’s 1997 debut Blame Love, Blakey’s vocals are frequently shadowed by the complementary harmonies of John Chumbris, Blakey’s longtime musical partner. In the early ’90s, a mutual friend in Washington, D.C., was organizing a Golden Palominos-type collective, with Chumbris and Blakey among the contributors, and the pair immediately hit it off musically.
“She had a song that was sort of half-finished,” recalls Chumbris, who plays, among other things, electric, acoustic, lap steel, and pedal steel guitars on the new album. “So we sat on the floor of the studio with acoustic guitars and arranged the song and were recording it an hour later.”
The two vets — Chumbris was in D.C. outfit the Slickee Boys, while Blakey had dropped out of school in Georgia to go on the road with Let’s Active before playing in Oh-OK and Holiday — knew not to ignore serendipity. In the past decade, Glory Fountain expanded from a duo to band, stripped back down to a duo, and, very recently, returned to bandhood to hit the road in support of The Beauty Of 23.
Whereas the guitar-poppy Blame Love was an accidental album of sorts — a collection of demos recorded over a several-year period with recording and drumming help from Mitch Easter — the follow-up was made, in Chumbris’ words, “with more of a sense of purpose.” The initial idea was to make an album that reflected the textured, atmospheric sound of their latest duo incarnation, but the blueprint was apparently misplaced along the way.
“Records have little lives of their own,” Blakey posits. “Maybe they’re like kids. You have a plan for them, and then they do something else.”
A gorgeous cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Flyin’ Shoes” fits the album’s original vision, as does the Richard & Linda Thompson-ish “Rosary”, but most everything else on The Beauty Of 23 is fleshed out and modestly pumped up. Think Buddy & Julie Miller with less twang and more of an indie-rock pedigree. Blakey offers a chuckling explanation for the transformation: “Any time you start bringing drums in, man, everything changes.” (It doesn’t hurt that the guys bringing ’em in are Will Rigby and Nic Brown, two personality-filled drummers who happen to be a generation apart.)
“We want to be able to do everything in one set, y’know?” Blakey concludes. “Beautiful, quiet stuff. Groovy kind of stuff. Loud stuff.”