Showing posts with label mward. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mward. Show all posts


Alt-Blues Review: Mark Lanegan - Straight Songs of Sorrow

Release Date: May 8, 2020
Label: Heavenly

Mark Lanegan comes right out and says it, so don't say you weren't warned. These are Straight Songs of Sorrow. The deep lyrics riding upon guttural resonance evokes a cathartic empathy for the state of the world and the people inhabiting it which is nothing short of beautiful. It may not be the artist's desired effect, but after I put my headphones down, I feel a whole lot better about my own personal lot in life and the future of humankind. I suppose in this respect one could call this a blues album, but the blood mixed in makes it more purple. 

Founder of grunge pioneers and extremely underrated Screaming Trees, Lanagan rides the tailwind of his recent soul-bearing memoir, Sing Backwards and Weep. His book details the youthful search for "decadence, depravity, anything, everything." In it, Lanagan reveals the guilt he feels to this day about the death of his friend, Kurt Cobain. The vocals are reminiscent of classic blues singers yet bent with a blend of dark Iggy Pop mixed with Leonard Cohen, and infused with a twist of Nick Cave.

The distressed sonic texture strikes a chord from which the lyrics jump off and strike a nerve with tales of heartache and sorrow and warning signs of the hard road ahead. The album begins with Lanegan warning listeners not to take his advice. "Suddenly, everything I ever had is on ice. All those who tried to help me scattered like mice. No, I wouldn't want to say."

"Bleed All Over," the song with the most velocity in the collection, still reverberates with a vengeful sorry. "Don't you say it's over… I never wanted to… I'm a bleed all over." On "Skeleton Key," Lannegan laments, "I'm ugly inside and out… Love me, why would you ever love me? No one has ever loved me yet, pretty baby."

On Straight Songs of Sorrow, slow and soulful guitar travels on a gravel road of heavy bass and subdued drums. In the driver's seat, Lanegan couldn't care less what his passengers think. Unburdened by obligation and pretension, the artist is free to express his true self and travel wherever he wants. That is precisely what Lanegan has done, and we're all the wiser for coming along for the ride. 

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen


Folk Rock Review: M. Ward - Migration Stories

Release Date: April 10, 2020
Label: Anti-Records

On Migration Stories, M. Ward rides the elusive suffusion, which intertwines the conscious and unconscious mind. Someone tried to label it long ago as ‘Mellow Gold,’ but like all labels, it is superficial and, like an abstract of an abstract, fails to capture any depth.  The sonic essence of this record feels like the springtime sun smacking your face after a long, cold winter. It warms you to the point of epiphany and a realization that better times are ahead of us.  

M. Ward’s 10th studio album starts slow and then grows gradually like a flower garden surrounding the listener in a bed of color. Migration Stories’ wavelength is similar to Ray Lamontagne’s super mellow vibe in Oroboros, Beck’s wistful mellowness in Sea Change, and the sun-drenched exaltation of the Beach Boys. Weave all this together with a thread of Nat King Cole, and you have a sonic experience unlike any other.  

Some of the more memorable moments include “Heaven’s Nail and Hammer,” where M. discovers heaven through the holes in the sky.  “Independent Man” rides a slow fuzzy groove in and out of reality toward an uneven proclamation of unrequited obsession. “Real Silence” build on itself orchestrally to produce one of the finest tracks while the infectious “Torch” repeats the line “heartbeats in rhythm to its own, ba, ba, bahhhh” is likely to create an earworm in your brain for days.  Lyrically, whether traveling through the “Unreal City” or “Along the Santa Fe Trail,” they paint a picture throughout of souls lost or in transition. 

There’s a lesson to be learned as we sit on the sand and listen to the tide gently caress the shoreline, and that is, the slower you go, the more you’ll know. Turning down the volume on our lives and moving at a more careful and deliberate pace allows us to take in more of the world around us.  This, in turn, fills us with wonder and hope for a brighter future. When an E chord is introduced after three minutes of a C, G & A progression, that E chord hits your ears like a clapper hitting a church bell.  

So, take a lesson from Migration Stories and let it take you from one place to another.  During these uneasy times, sometimes it’s best to let go and like swallows heading south, ride the wind and surrender yourself to nature, trusting that eventually, we will all arrive at a better place. 

- Tom Endyke | Guitar & Pen