Dusty Stray “Tales of Misfortune and Woe” (Basta, 2010)
Death and dismemberment and some jolly tunes
It could well be that the artist and album names above encapsulate 99.9% of Americana in seven words, which makes it all the more surprising initially to find that both originate from the Netherlands. However Jonathan Brown, for it is he, was born in Taiwan and raised in Texas before moving to Holland in 2003, which makes it more understandable.
Brown has a soft, light voice and the melodies he writes are equally light, breezy and even bouncy on occasion, in particular when decorated by bright slide guitar from Jay Bico, as on the first two songs. The lyrics however are another matter entirely, being less misfortune and woe than murder and mayhem. A partial list would include the drowning of children, suicide, being stabbed and burned to death simultaneously, electrocution in the bath and some Rear Window style stalking. Brown’s songs though make such crimes seem, if not quite reasonable, then at least understandable. It’s all delightfully dark and the trick of allying beautiful and tapalong music to dark words has rarely been performed as well.
The album is complemented by a lovely booklet of green-heavy rural scenes with Victorian-esque figures in them, looking out of place and occasionally sinister, which is appropriate. All in all, a little gem.
Date review added: Sunday, September 26, 2010
Reviewer: Jeremy Searle
Related web link: Artist website