John Platania "Blues, Waltzes and Badlands Borders" (Train Wreck Records, 2007)
Big country, big album, fantastic musician
Platania's Blues, Waltzes and Badland Borders bears about as much resemblance to 'showbiz' country and western as a Sergio Leone masterpiece does to a badly dubbed, second rate western.
In fact the Sergio Leone connection is doubly valid because Platania is able to evoke the same intimate grandeur as the master film-maker. It's only by getting up close to the music do you get a full sense of its scale.
Nowhere is that more true than on the the epic Child Heroes. However be warned, like most of the album, Child Heroes is a bit of a red herring. It leads you firmly by the hand into the world of a concept album. It's the stirring tale of the oppressed of Mexico rising up, a kind of Tex- Mex Les Miserables manning the barricades. But it's just one of a myriad of threads used to weave musical magic.
Platania is a gifted guitarist and you don't even need to hear him to know that. He played on Moondance and is a member of Van Morrison's touring band. Van the Man doesn't suffer fools, gladly or otherwise, it's even rumoured that he gives himself a hard time.
What Blues, Waltzes and Badlands Borders is at heart is pretty much what the title so eloquently suggests, a musical tour around the barren, romantic beauty of the Texas/Mexican border, your guide for the trip is the wonderful guitar playing of John Platania. As you travel, you'll be treated to the warmth of I Will Be Standing and anarchic sultriness of Texas Sexy Ways.
With Platania the secret is that, unlike lesser musicians, he doesn't feel the need to constantly impress. Blues, Waltzes and Badlands Borders isn't about technique it's about a passion for playing. Anyway he has the fragrant Suite 35 to do his talking for him.
Like a good book, Blues, Waltzes and Badlands Borders unfolds little by little and opens up a whole new world. It's the kind of music to immerse yourself in, it doesn't need analysing just experiencing. I may never have visited Texas but listening to John Platani makes me believe I know it intimately, and that's the albums' greatest gift.
There's no discernible structure or form to the album, the tracks come and go almost at will, Train Wreck for one is a roaring piece of music to just sit back and enjoy.
With contributions, of varying degrees, from Lucinda Williams, Alejandro Escovedo, Chip Taylor, Carrie Rodriguez and bizarrely the Midnight Cowboy Jon Voigt, Platania has pulled together a cast of friends as eclectic as the music. The result is an album that could only come from the fertile imagination and talented fingers of a true musician. Perhaps the keystone is the track Tribute, a glorious amalgam of everything that has brought John Platania to this highpoint.
Date review added: Thursday, July 05, 2007
Reviewer: Michael John Mee