Larry Jon Wilson: Larry Jon Wilson

By: Dennis Cook

Forget the compelling backstory, the old school shoulda-been-famous tale and disillusionment with the nuts 'n' bolts of the music industry that made him withdraw in 1980, and just listen to Larry Jon Wilson's self-titled return to recording after a nearly 30 year absence (released June 30 on Drag City). There's a purity of form, the intimate-as-can-be mingling of a fantastically lived-in voice and the practiced, natural movement of hands on an acoustic guitar, that's undeniable. "I'm still drinking gin/ sure bought a lot of gin today," is a simple enough sentiment but delivered with Wilson's shit-this-feels-real burr it hits your gut like that one shot too many that makes you aware of all the sickness you carry around inside.

While Steve Earle and countless others salute Townes Van Zandt, here's a living singer-songwriter who pitches a tent not far from Townes' lonely, sadly true country. And like Townes, Wilson slips in sharp flashes of hope or just catalogs of the small things that get us through. A romantic fiddle floats in and out here, sticking to the edges of Wilson's singing and picking, and rightly so, but adding a lovely dance hall of the damaged vibe. This whole set lays bare our tattered collective spirit, picking through what's been left behind by all the wildfires and stupid decisions and holding up what endures, the pleasures and pains that live through the blaze and stumble, the stuff we just can't shake, for good reasons and bad.

The only folksy release in recent times that even remotely compares is last year's similar return-to-recording marvel Misfit Scarecrow by Sammy Walker (JamBase review). Like Walker, Larry Jon Wilson drives down to a resounding, unshakable essence - a real, adult, all-too-human understanding given nigh perfect form. This is an instant classic for God's lost children and you cheat yourself of something special if you miss it.

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[Published on: 7/23/09]

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