By: Dennis Cook
On vast verandas with untouched Miranda, stuffed with dreams of architects and red right ankles, Colin Meloy is a perfectly sullied romantic. Freed from the sometimes baroque machinations of The Decemberists, this collection culled from Meloy's 2006 solo tour reveals one of the truly grand songwriters of our time and a solo live performer of Richard Thompson level.
It begins with "Devil's Elbow," a chestnut from Meloy's Tarkio days, which swings a lighthouse beacon over his bruised, beautiful heart. Like most concerts, the first stretch is a slow growing as the flirtation between audience and performer blossoms into something more tangible. Meloy's storytelling and easy back-and-forth is charming as heck but it's the songs that ultimately capture our attentions. Caught somewhere between bardic "Greensleeves" and The Queen Is Dead Morrisey-isms, Meloy's compositions and delivery are sweetly sour, quixotic reveries with appeal for Jane Austen readers and secretly wistful gutter punks. While the delivery is simple here – a single acoustic guitar and Meloy's endlessly yearning voice – the material actually benefits from the stripping back. His attempts at "evoking a campfire sing-a-long," seem genuine and his rapport with the clearly obsessed crowds at these shows is endearing, down to sharing the worst song he ever wrote, "Dracula's Daughter," which is, as he points out, "bad to the core." The highlight is the 12-minute sequence of "California One >Youth And Beauty Brigade > Ask," which has the gentle hypnosis of a good kiss and the aftershocks one experiences in the hours that follow.
In many ways, the scope of his craftsmanship shines more brightly here than in The Decemberists. That's not a knock against his day job but for anyone put off by the accordions and puffed-up arrangements may be shocked at how track-after-track satisfying this release is. He also makes time for a bit of Fleetwood Mac, The Smiths and revered British folk matron Shirley Collins, illuminating both his roots and his right to stack his work next to such luminaries. There's such exquisite ache to much of this and that's not easy to come by in these hard scrabble days. Bravo, sir.
JamBase | Floors of Silent Seas
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