Music Album reviews with Ian Sinclair: December 5, 2022 – Morning Star Online

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HAVING recently worked with Finnish metal band Circle, Richard Dawson returns with the final part of a trilogy following 2017’s medieval-set Peasant and his album 2020 exploring life in contemporary Britain.
The press for The Ruby Cord suggests it’s set 500 years in the future, with the Newcastle singer-songwriter inspired by virtual worlds, computer games and glitches in the system.
If Dawson’s artistic ambition isn’t clear already, then it should be after you listen to The Hermit, the record’s epic 41-minute opener (yes, you read that right). The most conventional track is the lovely waltzing closer Horse And Rider — sung from the point of view of the steed, apparently.
Like his other work there is a folk influence, though it’s generally much closer to experimental, deliciously weird — and sometimes quite heavy — rock.
The Doc Brown of British music.
 

ORIGINALLY released in 1992, US singer-songwriter Iris DeMent’s critically acclaimed Infamous Angel is special for lots of reasons, not least because it sounds like the work of a seasoned Nashville veteran rather than the debut album of a relatively unknown artist.
It’s her extraordinary, wailing voice that immediately strikes the listener, as good as any in country music.
And the songs are top-notch too. The brilliant opener Let The Mystery Be wryly considers life’s Big Questions, while These Hills is an affecting ballad that brings to mind Gram Parsons’s Hickory Wind.
Arguably the album’s centrepiece, the folksy Our Town is a sad, nostalgic song marking the decline of one small town, the soundtrack to the last episode of US TV series Northern Exposure and covered by Kate Rusby and many other artists.
 
A welcome reissue of a country classic.
 

AS THE leader of US indie outfit Okkervil River, Will Sheff hit a purple patch in the noughties with critically acclaimed albums like the Tim Hardin-inspired Black Sheep Boy and magnificent The Stage Names.
 
Nothing Special is his first solo record but it doesn’t stray too far from his old band’s winning formula — dense lyrics verging on short stories and striking vocals delivered like his life depended on it.
 
A lot experiences and influences seem to have gone into the songs, such as Sheff’s move from New York City to Los Angeles and the early death of former Okkervil River drummer Travis Nelsen.
The pace is largely unhurried, with less rock and more emotive ballads, the eight minute Holy Man — which Sheff believes is the best thing he has ever written — the affecting, ruminative core of the set.
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