Monday, April 20, 2009

Dredd Foole & Ed Yazijian - That Lonesome Road Between Hurt and Soul (Bo'Weavil Recordings CD)

Just in from Brainwashed:

"Free-folk" is a term that gets thrown around a lot, and to some extent it has come to represent a certain strain of quirky indie cuteness far removed from its more primitive punk precursors. Both elder statesmen of the style, Dredd Foole and Ed Yazijian have been playing together for years to little public acknowledgement. But in an increasingly open musical climate they have at last reconvened for an album of loose extrapolations within the form, proving their collective voice to be as stylistically prophetic and effective as one could hope from these two luminaries.

Of course none of this points toward a disc like this suddenly ringing significant to the average consumer of "freak-folk." While genre stars Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom (especially Newsom) do indulge in their fare share of extended ruminating, nobody does it quite like Foole and Yazijian. Case in point can be found on the album opener, the lengthy "You Feel." A 20-plus minute excursion into the open structural framework surrounding Foole's spare lyrical content, the work requires little in concocting its increasingly distorted take on the quirky energy wrought by precursors such as The Fugs and Holy Modal Rounders. Delta guitar slides, plucks, and Foole's thick and emotive vocals drift endlessly into a strange space of punk attitude fed through folk styles and extended motions on variations.

"Buzzin' Fly" follows a similar format, stretching out over 15 minutes as the two seem to craft the piece on the spot. Foole's vocals are sincere to the point of intimidation, and the work is unabashedly pretty, not afraid to stick with its own guns and counting on those to keep the work interesting. It's a refreshingly unpretentious take that is neither hyper-aware of its own coolness factor nor unaware of its influences.

It is this stripped down honesty that ultimately makes the record as worthwhile as it is. Too often this sort of record either comes across as schmaltzy or self-indulgent, but the relationship between these two is long and well traveled, so it's easy for egos to be left at the door. On "Freedom" Foole sings and strums about, you guessed it, freedom, singing that, "someone said my freedom is gone." Meanwhile Yazijian's broad fiddle strokes push on the outer bounds of the form as his tones swirl in instrumental proof that such is not the case whatsoever.

"Love in the Basement" is likely the most amorphous work on the record as the two tap and twist wah'd lines around strange vocal incantations that stretch the Yardbirds classic "For Your Love" beyond recognition. Meanwhile a droney line and poetic discourse is undergone on "Charlestown Blue," further delving into the basement punk roots that are so deeply engrained in the duo's sound.

Ultimately, it's this extended sense of discourse and the raw honesty which is most effective here. These are pop tunes at heart perhaps, but they are folkier, rawer, and stranger than so many who seek to be. There is no posing necessary here though, and there is nothing more exciting than that.

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