At the risk of losing my sanity I've been treating myself to constant spins of "The Duel", the new cd by Allison Moorer. "The Duel" has been hailed by the wonderfully credible folks at www.music-critic.com as "THE most improtant album of 2004" and "(possibly) the bravest country album of all time."
That's the kind of hyperbole usually reserved by the Sun-Times' Jim Derogatis for Courtney Love records.
My guess is that prior to listening to "The Duel" reviewer Matt Cibula was unfamiliar with Johnny Cash's "Live at Folsom Prison." Regardless, "The Duel" is an amazing record. Probably not the most important record of 2K4, but one that should wind up on the year-end best-of lists of any pop music critic that doesn't have an unhealthy fascination with cracked-out fame whores.
The immediate sonic reference point for "The Duel" would be Neil Young circa "Harvest" or the early years of Crazy Horse. Lyrically the range from unhealthy obsession ("I Ain't Giving Up On You"), rejection of role model status ("Once Upon A Time She Said"), loss of faith (the title track), and death (the beautifully maudlin lullaby "Sing Me To Sleep.")
The centerpiece of the album is the one-two combination of "All Aboard" and the title track. "All Aboard" is a six-minute fuck you to pro-war jingoists with a melody reminiscent of the Alan Parsons Project's "Eye In the Sky." The title track, with spare accompaniment of piano and harmonica, contains lyrics that would make Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen proud.
So today I've put "The Duel" aside in favor of "Impossible Dream", the new release by Patty Griffin.
[An aside before I start writing about this album: Patty Griffin records for ATO Records, the vanity label RCA set up for Dave Matthews. Another ATO signee is the awesome My Morning Jacket. I'm finding it very hard coming to terms with the fact that Dave Matthews and I have similar taste in music when I think his band is one of the great evils of popular music. Anyone else feel the same?]
"Impossible Dream" is such a beautifully ethereal sounding album with nods to gospel, folk, country, blues, and rock. Right now I'm rewinding "Kite Song", a tender mournful song with some of the most beautiful lyrics I've read in ages, over and over. "Impossible Dream" is full of songs of loves lost, found, and in transition, arranged specifically to place an emphasis on Griffin's ringing alto. Fans of the Dixie Chicks' Griffin-penned hit "Top Of The World" will like the comparison to Grifin's original arrangement.
I'll leave you with that now that I read like a blushing teenaged girl. Go out and get these albums if I piqued your interest.