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Smartly Woven Southern Gothic Tunesmithing From Abigail Dowd

Rural life isn’t easy, as folk music from around the world will never let you forget. Abigail Dowd draws on that tradition, with imagistic tales which reflect how much things have changed – and also how little. She’s got a big, bluesy voice, like Lucinda Williams before the booze caught up with her, as well as way with a sharp turn of phrase and a solid supporting cast of players behind her. Travelers and outsiders figure heavily in her songs. Her new album Not What I Seem is streaming at Bandcamp.

The stripped-down arrangement in the biting, minorr-key, bluesy Wiregrasser – just acoustic rhythm guitar, lead slide guitar and steady bass – underscores Dowd’s hardscrabble tableau, where people extract everything from the surrounding woods until there’s nothing left but creosote.

“I mostly look out for myself,” Dowd’s cynical narrator relates in The Other Side over a catchy, Dylanesque sus4 riff – but she also asserts that “When you get to heaven, there’ll be many a party, but there won’t be nobody there that you know.”

Over a spiky web of fingerpicked guitars, Dowd chronicles a harrowing southern legacy in Old White House. Dowd’s fingerpicking grows more spare and enigmatic in the album’s title track, a defiant, solo acoustic individualist’s anthem.

“I remember looking for a smile, and meeting cold steel eyes,” Dows recounts as Chosin, a searing memoir of how war trauma crosses generations, rises from a hazy intro to a briskly ringing, open-tuned melody. “Stand and fight, you fool, ‘cause no one’s gonna out alive/Watch out, how many of these wounds are mine?”

Dowd looks back on an uneasy transition from southern comfort to New England chill in Goodbye Hometown. She takes that story further into a troubled future in Oh 95, a vivid traveler’s tale: “When you’re all alone you speak the truth,” she reflects.

Dowd and the band pick up the pace with Desire, a shuffling minor-key tale set in coalmining country. Alienation is a persistent theme in these songs, and the stark To Have a Friend is the most forlorn of all of them.

Drag Me Down is an unexpected turn toward acoustic White Album-era Beatles. She keeps the low-key, fingerpicked ambience going with Daredevil: “Let me be the devil on your shoulder, I’m daring you to live,” Dowd cajoles.

She takes a turn into Lou Reed territory in Sweet Love and then returns to Americana, singing a-cappela in the album’s closing cut, Silent Pines, a gospel-flavored revolutionary anthem. If best-of-2020 lists still exist when this hellacious year is over, you’re going to see this album on a lot of them.

The Sway Machinery and Hydra Stage a Magical, Otherworldly, Psychedelic Collaboration at Joe’s Pub

While a whole lot of New Yorkers were up at Lincoln Center Out of Doors to hear Lucinda Williams, an audience of cognoscenti filled Joe’s Pub to witness this city’s most auspicious musical collaboration this year, between the magically Balkan-influenced all-female trio Hydra and the Sway Machinery, who could be described as a cantorially-influenced psychedelic desert rock band. Hearing frontman/guitarist Jeremiah Lockwood’s impassioned, melismatic baritone amidst the pulsing, distantly gospel-inflected harmonies of Luminescent Orchestrii’s Rima Fand, Nanuchka’s Yula Beeri and Black Sea Hotel‘s Sarah Small was viscerally spine-tingling. Lockwood might be the strongest male singer in New York, and stood out even more when bolstered by the three women’s uneasy, deep-sky close harmonies.

It wasn’t until late in the set that Fand persuaded Lockwood to explain the origins of his band’s songs. He related modestly that they drew on Jewish liturgical melodies that vary widely, depending on where in the Jewish diaspora you come from, to the point of being very individual, from family to family. What he didn’t add is that he’s the scion of a famous cantorial legacy, and that the Sway Machinery’s songs take those millennia-old themes into the present day via a host of influences every bit as global.

Lockwood’s guitar playing draws equally on his mentor, the late country bluesman Carolina Slim, as well as loping, hypnotic Saharan Tuareg rock and Afrobeat: it wouldn’t be a stretch to call the Sway Machinery the American Tinariwen. When his voice wasn’t reaching for the rafters with a soaring, sometimes imploring intensity, he drove the band with his slinky, snaky, incisively spiraling Telecaster riffs and a handful of snarling, tightly coiled solos. In one of the night’s most dynamic numbers, there were two basslines going, Nikhil P.Yerawadekar on the low end and Lockwood slightly higher up the scale, holding down his low E with his thumb while fingerpicking out a snaky lead at the same time. Strat player Tim Allen alternated between airy, astringent textures, jangly interplay with Lockwood and a couple of blue-flame solos. Drummer John Bollinger kept a tricky, rolling beat going, punctuated by Matt Bauder’s tenor sax and Jordan McLean’s trumpet.

Midway through the set, the Sway Machinery left the stage to Hydra to sing a brief and tantalizingly dazzling, eclectic set. The interplay between the three personalities was as interesting to witness as their harmonies. This may seem overly reductionistic, and it probably is, but Fand the mystic, Beeri the Secretary of Entertainment and Small the badass, tall and resolutely swaying to the beat, brought a dynamism and nuance that was every bit the sum of its formidable parts.

Their first number without the band behind them evoked Small’s innovatively intimate arrangements of Bulgarian choral music. While that’s what she’s made a name for herself with in the popular trio Black Sea Hotel, Beeri and Fand proved just as much at home in those eerie close harmonies and microtones. From there they ventured into a diptych of flamenco and Ladino-tinged Spanish folk tunes, then a starlit, mandolin-driven lullaby by Fand, a stark Russian Romany tune, then the Sway Machinery returned for the night’s most intricately orchestrated, ornately thrilling mini-epic. Between everyone onstage, they sang in Hebrew, Spanish, Ukrainian and English. Let’s hope this isn’t the only time this otherworldly, entrancing collaboration gets staged in this city.

A Rare West Village Appearance by Vivid, Guitarslinging Tunesmith Michelle Malone

Georgia songwriter Michelle Malone gets a lot of Lucinda Williams comparisons. Which makes sense: both artists have a thing for the blues, and oldschool C&W, and bands who can rock the hell out of their songs. But Malone’s a better singer and a better guitarist too. Where Williams rasps, Malone belts. And her slide guitar playing has snarl and bite. She’s making an unexpected appearance at 9 PM on August 17 at the Bitter End. Cover is $15.

Malone’s latest album is Stronger Than You Think, streaming at Spotify. It opens with Stomping Ground, a big, defiant, swaying paisley underground anthem straight out of the Dream Syndicate playbook. Although Malone’s message is that nostalgia is a quicksand pit, the song will resonate with any New Yorker – or anyone, for that matter – whose old haunts have been been bulldozed for “luxury” condos.

Vivian Vegas, a Johnny Cash-style shuffle lit up with some jaunty, jazz-tinged 50s style country guitar riffage, wryly recalls the ups and downs of a hard-rocking gal’s career. My Favorite Tshirt, a slow, blue-flame Georgia Satellites-style stomp, celebrates an escape from an abusive relationship. Malone brings things down with the elegant acoustic soul-jazz ballad I Got An Angel, contrasting with the lighthearted, amped-up folk-rock of When I Grow Up.

Malone follows Swan White, an enigmatic backbeat janglerock number, with the strutting, indomitable rocker Keep My Head Up, a dead ringer for classic early 80s Tattoo You-era Stones. Likewise, the swaying midtempo kiss-off anthem Don’t Want to Know, with its honking blues harp, and Ashes, a bluesy, Stonesy strut fueled by Gerry Hansen’s spot-on Charlie Watts impersonation behind the drum kit, and some of Malone’s tastiest guitar work here.

The vivid, wistful current-day Great Depression anthem Ramona paints a chillingly detailed picture, in an Amy Rigby vein: “I learned a fresh start can hurt like brand new shoes,” Malone recalls. Then she flips the script with the droll, surreal happy-go-lucky Fish Up a Tree and keeps that cheery vibe going through Birthday Song (I’m So Glad). As dynamic and guitar-fueled as this album is, Malone has a reputation for incendiary live shows and is likely to add fuel to that fire on Wednesday night. 

Lucinda Williams: Tipsy But Not Phoning It In at Prospect Park

Lucinda Williams was wasted last night. Then again, that’s her vocal shtick – that low, raspy drawl always sounds like she’s half in the bag. The giveaway at her Prospect Park Bandshell show was the looseness, the long jams that her fantastic band burned through (and sometimes didn’t seem sure about where Williams wanted to wrap them up), and when she talked to the audience. At least she threw a shout to Bernie Sanders into her ramble, which drew the most applause of the evening – until she lit into an ill-advised encore of Neil Young’s Keep on Rocking in the Free World, complete with Bon Jovi-style backing vocals, anyway. But the crowd loved that too.

And the boozy, dissociative approach worked. Williams may have had a cheat sheet held together with binder clips, but she wasn’t phoning anything in. When she finally got to Essence, the “I’ve been waiting in this bar” part of that big, gorgeous chorus was pure, straight-up authenticity. Likewise, the cynical TMI of Those Three Days, its wounded narrator snarling about“You found a hole and then you came.”

They opened with a stark, almost otherwordly, Howlin Wolf-inspired Something Wicked This Way Comes. Brilliant lead guitarist Stuart Mathis’ searing, blues-infused lines on Righteously evoked peak-era Mick Taylor, then bassist David Sutton built to a stomping conclusion with some neat chordal work. Then Mathis went into acidic swamp-rock mode for Buttercup, where he stayed for most of the set, beyond his sparsely jangly twelve-string lines on Drunken Angel.

Arguably the best song of the night was a new one, the bitterly swaying adolescent alienation anthem West Memphis, from Williams’ double-cd set Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. The biggest hit of the night, at least til the FM radio rock covers of the encore, was a crushing doom-metal version of Unsuffer Me, so slow that it raised the question of whether the band had resurrected an obscure number by Black Sabbath or Sleep.

By the time the band got to Lake Charles, Williams was the picture of forlornness, abandoned and forsaken and drowning her sorrows. Then the songs got even sadder with the the vamping 2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten. From there, the band picked up the pace with a slinky take of Are You Down, part early Tom Petty, part Santana, drummer Butch Norton dueling it out with Mathis during a lively, latin-flavored doublespeed jam. After that, a new one, Foolishness, made a platform for more jamming and randomly caustic commentary on current events, Williams defiantly telling the crowd one thing that freedom means to her is that she can drink and drug however much she feels like.

Later numbers included another new one, Protection, which wasn’t much more than a one-chord jam; Get Right with God, which was more blues than gospel; and an expansive, rather haphazard, bluesily swaying take of Joy.  This year’s schedule of free outdoor shows at the Prospect Park Bandshell includes movies and plenty of other stuff besides just music, which as usual is a mixed bag. The next really enticing concert there is on July 10 at 7 PM with popular, humorous, brass-fueled Argentine ska-punk band Los Autenticos Decadentes.

Jenny Scheinman Goes Back to Americana With Her Excellent New Album

Jenny Scheinman is best known as one of the great violinists in jazz, both as a bandleader and as a collaborator with guitar great Bill Frisell. But she also writes vivid, lyrical Americana songs. Her latest release, The Littlest Prisoner – streaming at Spotify – harks back to her eclectic, pensive self-titled 2008 album. Producer Tucker Martine, who took such a richly layered approach to Tift Merritt’s Still Not Home, does the very opposite here, matching the spareness of Scheinman’s previous Americana album. Most of the tracks feature just Frisell’s guitar and Brian Blade’s drums. She’s playing the album release show at le Poisson Rouge on June 30 at 7:30 PM; advance tix are $20 and highly recommended.

Wariness and unease counterbalance the summery sway of the music throughout these songs: Scheinman is always watching her back. The opening track, Brother, is a catchy, wary, slowly unwinding ballad in the Lucinda Williams vein, but with better vocals, Scheinman challenging a guy to be as solid and protective as a family member would be.

Run Run Run is not the Velvets classic but a shuffling bluegrass tune that contrasts Frisell’s signature, lingering guitar with Blade’s shuffle beat and Scheinman’s jaunty violin. It makes a good segue with the spare, Appalachian-flavored violin/guitar duet Thirteen Days.

The title track, Scheinman’s dedication to her then-unborn daughter, makes another uneasy juxtaposition between a lithely dancing, funk-flavored tune and a lyric that contemplates the perils of parenthood. By contrast, My Old Man looks back to Linda Ronstadt’s 70s ventures into Americana-tinged hippie-pop, but with purist production values. Likewise, Houston has the feel of a Lowell George ballad, but again with a spiky, sparse arrangement: Scheinman doesn’t waste a note anywhere.

She follows the brief, wistful Debra’s Waltz with Just a Child, a vivid reminiscence of a northern California back-to-the-land hippie upbringing: as she tells it, a bale of cocaine landed offshore there at least once. She winds up the album with the dancing, funky, bluesy violin instrumental Bent Nail and then its best track, the hypnotic, brooding, Velvet Underground-tinged Sacrifice. Once again, Scheinman reasserts that her prowess as an Americana artist matches her achievements in jazz. Fans of Laura Cantrell, Gillian Welch and other top-tier Americana songwriters will love this.

Kimberly M’Carver’s Hard Waltz: Purist Country Songwriting, Brilliant Voice

Houston songwriter Kimberly M’Carver has a voice that will very gently knock you out. It’s sort of a cross between Emmylou Harris and vintage Dolly Parton, with all the nuance of the former and the sweetness of the latter. M’Carver can sing clear and pure as a country spring, or turn up the vibrato at the end of a phrase for an especially heartbroken edge.  True to its title, most of her latest album Hard Waltz, is oldschool, purist country music, with several numbers in 3/4 time. Being a strong songwriter, M’Carver had no problem pulling together an amazing band to back her this time around, including but not limited to co-producer/guitarist Scott Neubert, singer/guitarist Claire Lynch, Little Big Town bassist John Thomasson, GreenCards fiddler Eamon McLoughlin and Elvis Costello accordionist Jeff Taylor. Fans of hard country will love this.

The title track opens the album with a lush bed of acoustic guitars and an accordion solo that hands off to a pennywhistle – it’s very Emmylou. with a little Celtic edge. M’Carver picks up the pace with the catchy newgrass tune Bliss Creek and then brings it down again with the sweet, sad waltz You Say That You’re Leaving. “Promises bend, souls they grow thirsty and love stories end,” she laments before the gorgeous blend of fiddle and pedal steel kicks in on the chorus.

Teardrops and Wine sounds like it’s pretty self-explanatory, but it’s not that simple, and the way M’Carver slides up to a note on the second chorus will give you chills. Rodeo Clown was inspired by M’Carver’s second cousin, who is the genuine item – but the song casts the singer in the role of someone who’s “always there to pick you up when you’re knocked down.” It’s a neat twist. Devil or Fool, with its slow-burning, blues-drenched slide guitar, makes a stark contrast, taking its inspiration from M’Carver’s many trips to Sugar Land prison to visit her brother, who was in for drugs and a probation violation.

It Never Gets Easy, a straight-up, backbeat country song with some memorable lead guitar, steel and fiddle work, ponders a frustrating relationship where “the heat of your touch turned everything else cold.” Redemption, with its resigned blend of country gospel and Tex-Mex, takes a haunting look at dead-end despair and alienation and draws inspiration from the suicide of M’Carver’s first husband. It contrasts with the next track, There’s Always Sorry, a make-up song set to electric highway rock with a sizzling, spiraling guitar lead. The album winds up with the gentle, jazz-tinged countrypolitan waltz Will You Show Me the Stars – dedicated to M’Carver’s astrophysicist husband  of the last 25 years – and the vivid, picturesque post-breakup ballad Another Goodbye Waltz, something that Lucinda Williams would be proud to have written. M’Carver has several other purist albums to her credit and has toured with Jim Lauderdale; if she ever makes it up to NYC, you’ll hear about it here.

Yet Another Smart, Purist Album from Kim Richey

Kim Richey is one of those songwriters that Americana music fans take for granted. Every so often she puts out a new album, and it always ends up being pretty much what you’d expect: smart, impeccably crafted, with tasteful playing, lots of catchy hooks, plenty of detail and wise observations in the lyrics. Her latest one Thorn in My Heart is her seventh in a career that began in the mid-90s. Back then she was ahead of her time, someone who didn’t come out of country music but found herself a home there, more or less. Since then she’s circled closer around that center, every now and then selling a song to some New Nashville type. The viability of that business model having plunged so dramatically has put Richey out on the road more consistently, not such a bad thing since nobody does her songs as well as she does. She’s playing Joe’s Pub tonight with her band at around 10:15; tickets are $15 and are still available as of now.

As usual, Richey has surrounded herself with a cast of quality Nashville sidemen: the core of her touring band, guitarist Neilson Hubbard and mandolinist/multi-instrumentalist Dan Mitchell plus guitarists Will Kimbrough and Kris Donegan, bassist Michael Rinne and drummer Evan Hutchings, along with Wilco’s Pat Sansone (formerly of Jenifer Jackson’s band) on keys and Trisha Yearwood guesting on harmony vocals. Richey likes to write with people: as with her previous album, Hubbard gets a lot of co-writes here.

The title track is a terse midtempo backbeat country ballad that wouldn’t be out of place in the Tift Merritt songbook. “I’m fighting a battle with the undertow, it’s hard to hold your hand when you’re letting go,” the narrator grouses. Something More sets a brooding southern gothic narrative against spiky banjo and Sansone’s surreal funeral-parlor organ. And No Means Yes is an oldschool country cheating song in waltz time.

Angels’ Share, a co-write with the 1861 Project’s Thomm Jutz, builds a slow, summery, crying-in-your-beer ambience up to a bittersweet organ break: Lucinda Williams comes to mind. Richey has a couple more collaborations with Jutz here: I’m Going Down, an escape anthem with more bristling banjo, gospel piano and a trip-hop beat, and Everything’s Gonna Be Good, a slow, cautiously optimistic gospel-tinged ballad.

By contrast, the album’s best song, Come On – co-written with Mike Henderson – brings back the escape imagery over snarling guitar-fueled garage rock riffage. The other Henderson collaboration, Take Me to the Other Side, is also a gem, working its way up from a doomed Appalachian country-gospel theme. I Will Wait (written with Henrik Irgens) is sort of Richey’s Long Black Veil.

London Town, co-written by ex-bandmate Nate Campany, is a trip-hop song in disguise with tasty, moody trumpet fills interspersed amidst the jangle. And Richey moves to harmony vocals on the catchy Americana rock anthem Breakway Speed, a BoDeans-flavored collaboration with Mando Saenz with a wry Johnny Cash quote as its centerpiece. On one hand, Richey isn’t breaking any new ground here; on the other hand, it’s hard to imagine anyone else who mines a pensive acoustic-electric Americana vein as subtly and consistently well as she does.

Bettye LaVette: Stunning and Intense in the Flatiron District

Last night at Madison Square Park, soul survivor Bettye LaVette took care to emphasize her “surgence,” rather than resurgence. Throughout a riveting, electric hour onstage, she made it clear that her fifty years in the music business had been just as much of a struggle as her love life. Looking sleek and strong in a shimmery black dress and evoking Tina Turner, but with more range and more rage, LaVette and her impressively subtle four-piece backing band ran through a series of cult favorites as well as a handful of stunning reinventions of classic rock standards from her most recent album Interpretations: the British Rock Songbook. One of the most affecting of those was Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, which pianist Alan Hill opened by vamping on the hook from Tracks of My Tears, a riff that the band had toyed with to powerful effect on a handful of earlier songs. LaVette recalled how her version had been released as a single just a few weeks after the 1972 original, only to see her record label shelve it – as had happened to her so many times in the past – when it didn’t click with radio execs. The band took their time with this one, swaying pensively and adding a cruelly unresolved jazziness at the end of the verse. When she hit the line “And I’m growing old,” angst stretching across her face as her voice broke up into grit, the effect was shattering.

As it was on the evening’s most intense number, Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. LaVette recalled that her inspiration to record the song came from story about the Beatles taking a shortcut through a park to enjoy a post-gig joint, where McCartney noticed a black woman alone on a bench, singing at the top of her lungs, giving him the impetus for the song. She admitted that the tale was apocryphal, but that it made a good story – and then rewrote it as a theme for her own life. “For me, the British invasion was a nemesis,” she revealed, speaking for the legions of black artists whose songs suddenly disappeared from AM radio as the Beatles and their legions of imitators moved in on their turf. “A bunch of young British white men, who were stoned,” she added dryly, who’d left behind their songs “To be interpreted by a 66-year-old black woman who’s drunk.” While LaVette’s reputation as a party animal has considerable basis in fact, she actually seemed the furthest thing from intoxicated. Transforming the song into a slow anthem in 6/8 time, she methodically worked her way up from matter-of-fact to the longing of a literally transcendent crescendo: “All of my life, I’ve been waiting for this moment to arrive.”

And the rest of the show left no doubt that it had arrived. LaVette’s “surgence” actually began back in the 90s; as she was quick to acknowledge, she’s finally reached the point where her entire body of work, dating from the 60s, has finally made it into print. She and the band – Hill on a variety of keyboards, plus Charles Bartels on bass, Brett Lucas on guitar and Darrell Pierce on drums – opened the show on a defiantly insistent note. On They Call It Love (from The Scene of the Crime, her collaboration with the Drive-By Truckers), she went off mic, shrugged her shoulders and asked the audience if they had any more idea than she did about how to keep a relationship afloat: nobody did. Choices, a country ballad originally written for George Jones, was transformed into a quietly regretful soul ballad. Likewise, George Harrison’s It Don’t Come Easy made a clenched-teeth cautionary tale.

LaVette joked that “the only woman who can drink more than me…possibly” was Lucinda Williams, author of Joy, which LaVette turn turned into a slinkily careening, desperation-tinged one-chord jam. She closed with a towering, wrenching, angst-fueled version of the bitter ballad Close As I’ll Get to Heaven, Hill’s string synthesizer adding a symphonic edge. The audience roared for an encore, so she treated them to a gospel-drenched, a-cappella take of Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got. Of all the veteran soul musicians who came thisclose but ultimately never reached the mass audience they deserved back in the records-and-radio era, LaVette reaffirmed her reputation as the most intense and emotionally vivid of them all. She’s at Highline Ballroom celebrating the release of her forthcoming album and book, A Woman Like Me, on September 28 at 8 PM; $26 advance tickets are still available as of today but won’t last.

Good Stuff from Nicole Atkins and Janet LaBelle

Nicole Atkins has a nice, raw live soundboard recording from a show this year at the Music Hall of Williamsburg up at her bandcamp as a free download. Called …Till Dawn, it’s an enticement: try this for free, you’ll like it, buy the rest! See the show! And why not, this stuff is excellent. Those who don’t know Atkins may assume she’s a singer-songwriter, but this rocks, hard. The first track, This Is for Love, is sort of Lucinda Williams for a younger audience, starting out lurid with reverb-drenched slide guitar from Irina Yalkowsky (who is the absolute star of this whole thing), then turning into a big anthem, with some nice, vicious white-noise swells. You Come to Me sets biting, desperate 80s lead guitar over a fast ska bassline and a staggering bridge that jumps out of nowhere and then retreats as the guitar scorches in again. The down-and-out scenario Hotel Plaster sets Atkins’ shivery vintage Dolly Parton vocals to a reverberating Nashville noir tune. “This next song is about punching a bitch in the face,” Atkins tells the crowd and follows with My Baby Don’t Lie, a country shuffle done with a big, roaring Stonesy edge and a crazy solo slide guitar break. She ends the ep with an absolutely titanic, deliciously intense version of The Tower, the slowly swaying, funereal epic that closes her Mondo Amore album from this past spring. “We finally know why they call the dawn the mourning,” Atkins wails woundedly, Yalkowsky drawing roars of appreciation for her crazed chord-chopping solo that all of a sudden goes somber and bluesy. Atkins is at Symphony Space on Dec 8.

Where Atkins uses vintage 60s country as a stepping-off point, Janet LaBelle uses vintage 60s soul. Her most recent release, Moon Songs, is also up at her bandcamp. As with Atkins, it’s full of neat, unexpected flourishes. For instance, the opening track, The Moon is Ours shifts without warning from a pretty, jangly country vibe to a Do the Locomotion groove. Somehow they get a nice, full sound from just vocals, acoustic and electric guitar and a little percussion. The ridiculously catchy highway rock anthem Not Tonight is the best song here: as she does throughout the album, LaBelle’s full-throttle wail evokes Patricia Vonne with a little less angst: “I will get it right on the second try,” she insists.

The rest of the album is oldschool soul, for the most part, anyway. Apologies, a big, Aretha-style ballad swoops down into trip-hop on the chorus, while the big soul/gospel anthem Without You, a showcase for LaBelle’s lower register, also hits a trip-hop groove once the chorus kicks in. The last song is happy, catchy 60s Memphis pop done simply and elegantly with just acoustic guitars and vocals.