Chris Whitley & Jeff Lang, |
I've heard a little of both Jeff Lang's and Chris Whitley's solo stuff, but this collaboration takes the chequered flag. Together they create a raw, visceral and driving sound that remains warm and textured.
My favourite tracks are the Bob Dylan composition "Changing of the Guards" and the following track, "Motion Bride." Lang's banjo sounds great on the latter and "Changing of the Guards" takes you to a place where you can lose yourself in inspired playing and evocative imagery. (This song was off Dylan's Street Legal, an album with a garage-band like intensity. Dylan's next album would be the gospel-inspired Slow Train Coming, and it's a bit like the pale horse of the apocolypse, a harbinger of the tempest that would follow.) Ethereal, spiritual and great material for Whitley and Lang to build their intense soundscape on. They perform this dream-like song as though the meaning has been revealed to them in a shared epiphany.
The vocal performances of these guys are superb and they seem to feed off each other. It's intense but not overly dense. There are insistent, indulgent rhythms and riffs working off each other, but it's not claustrophobic or derivative in any way, other than being anchored in the muddy, brown Mississippi. This is new blues with all the vigour and fervour of the old blues.
Rare and never to be repeated, any possibility of further collaboration sadly ended with Whitley's recent passing. Mention should also be made of the brilliant and sensitive rhythm section featuring Grant Cummerford and Ashley Davies. Recording and production quality is also great, well balanced and empathetic to the performances.
Do yourself a huge favour and take the time to listen to some of Chris Whitley's other albums. He is a seriously overlooked and essential artist who has habitually been at the thin end of the wedge musically and artistically. Lang also has produced some albums I've heard and can recommend, particularly Whatever Makes You Happy and Prepare Me Well, an anthology that came with a content-rich DVD on which Lang talks about his journey as a musician, along with some live stuff and music videos.
10 May 2008
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