I'm sorry, but we're still trying to get over how awful The Who were the other night. But, damn, good for The Saints!
Now then, and then.
Most of y'all visitin' this little corner are probably already familiar with the Tarbox Ramblers. If not, go get yrself familiar right now. It's ok, we'll wait, and you deserve it.
Leader/Guitarist Michael Tarbox has a solo record out, My Primitive Joy, and it's a damn good 'un.
Eschewing much of the sonic Country'n'Blues dirt and drawl of the 'Ramblers albums, Tarbox creates a rumination in a minor key, dancing around the changing of seasons and images pulled from nature and natural in its instrumentaion, mostly acoustic with pedal steel and violin touches, light and yearning. The record moves from hope to despair, love to loss, earthly freedom, heavenly release, and dark obsession. The edge of town not so much dark but dimming, and the end of the street a secret exposed.
Tarbox's voice, where formerly a raging and sand-worn throttle shifted, plays here at muted atmosphere, an end of the road bourbon and bitters, sometime reminiscent of Peter Jefferies at his more introspective, still rough around the edges, but with an emphasis to the sublime.
Again to the instrumentation, Tarbox is backed by Scott McEwen (producer, string bass, drums, guitar and piano), Jimmy C. Clark (pedal steel, violin, trumpet), Robby Cosenza (drums), and JJ Murphy (drums). Mostly acoustic, the band create a soundscape that matches perfectly the voice of Tarbox, and the mood of the record. Most notably, Clark, whose pedal steel adorns such gems as "My Primitive Joy", our favorite track, with a sense of longing and travel, wide open spaces amongst the canyons of the soul.
Other tracks, such as "At Dusk", with it's funereal pace and melting violin, the all too brief "Let Me Know How To Find You"(with the immortal line "As radios fade and even dust must gleam"), and the pedal steel (again) shimmered "Whose Face?" all combine in a theme of floated awayness, a lingering drift over a burnt-out campfire where the couples have departed, the embers fade and spark, and all that's left is the shovel and the stars.
For folks looking for a more raucous sound, "Darkness Is A Rider" is a slight return to the Tarbox Ramblers' muddy bottom , a stomper played acoustic, but full of moral loathing and dread. "Have You Been To The City" actually goes electric, but pulls it's punches masterfully, reflecting the tone of the album, while transporting to concrete rather than the "natural", closing the record with a hint of what was and is to come: "What called you on forever/Mystery unbound?/Were you there in the city/ Thinking you had been found?"
It's a startlingly intimate record, one that lingers in you head and bounces, softly, through your ears. We can't recommend this album highly enough. Click here for a link to buy.
They say each muttered prayer
From each loosened tongue
To heaven finally flies
That each tender care and dream unsung
Must have a home on high
But we are born bound in time,
Slaves to mystery
And so I wonder
If these hopes at last will abandon me
Michael Tarbox: My Primitive Joy (mp3)
Michael Tarbox: Have You Been To The City (mp3)
As ever, please support your local, independent record stores and music-makers.