Surprises can be nice sometimes and at other times they can be a complete pain in the ass. The job of writer and critic can be a very unforgiving one at times, and very pleasurable at others. The hard part of the gig is the tediousness of so much music. And to me one of the most tedious genres happens to fall on the singer/songwriter. It seems that everyone who has ever picked up an acoustic guitar and has pro-tools thinks they are Bobby Dylan or Jeff Buckley or somebody like that.
But I digress because I’d like to focus on one of those times that you do hear a singer/songwriter who is up to snuff and who takes the genre and turns it on its head. This is precisely the feeling I got from listening to Andrew Foshee’s latest record Strange Relations.
The album skews towards country and Americana, but with a twist of lemon so to speak that gives it harmoniously acidic qualities. The cover calls out Bob Pollard collage contest and it should be the first hint that this record is not going to be the same old song and dance that you may have been expecting.
After the short opening interlude “Don’t be Afraid to Love” whirring sounds and hushed voices trailing off into space, Foshee launches into the slow and beautiful country dirge “Ride Out Of Town Like The Asshole That My Mama Made” which isn’t as funny as the title may suggest. No it’s a twangy and slow rippling sad country tune made all the more sad by Foshee’s delicate, sunken southern vocals. Next we see the experimental side of Strange Relations start to take shape. There’s a bit of honky-tonk and a bit of psychedelic rock the likes of Sgt. Pepper being played by Deerhunter.
Next comes the saloon style player piano ballad, “A Middle-Aged Bachelor's Lament.” It’s woozy, bluesy and boozy. At a waltz’s pace the song itself seems to dance around the pre-measured constraints of the cage in which the narrator seems trapped inside of himself. As the song slowly builds it becomes haunting and luminous, taking on backing female vocals and eventually a string section.
Later, on “It's Alright, We're All Gonna Die” he brings in the strings once again but they have a motion picture soundtrack style effect. Likewise the closing track, the gorgeously stripped down piano-centered instrumental, “Going Home (Goodbye)” also uses this epic slow build, which is what gives so many of the songs on Strange Relations such a pleasure to listen to.
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