Former Love and Money frontman sets poems by Auden, Blake, Bukowski and others to music
That 'white-funkster-whose-lack-of-hits-cost-Phongram-millions' synopsis reveals little about James Grant or his career. Here, the modest, uncompromising and gifted Grant makes what might have been pretentious sound human, his palette largely acoustic. He occasionally comes unstuck, but there are moments when the poets' visions and Grant's own merge to stunning effect. 'The Tragedy Of The Leaves' and 'Summer Farm' are Grant's aces. The former weaves strings and gut-string guitars around an archive Bukowski reading; the latter houses Norman MacCaig's dizzying imagery in a magical soundscape.
Reviewed By: James McNair
When your lyricists include William Blake, e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson and Arthur Rimbaud you've sure got to be sure that your settings and performance cut the musical mustard. Happily for ex (very ex actually) Hipsway frontman Grant, he acquits him,self on every count. The melodies and instrumentation are sympathetic and tasteful and the performances from himself and surrounding musicians are never less than affecting. Simply listen to the stunning Anyone Lived In A Pretty How Town (rapidly becoming a staple on my WCR radio show) and you'll understand. What's more, any notion that tinkering with the poets is self aggrandising might be shaken to find that the first voice on the album is not Grant's but former Thrum songstress Monica Bird with the wonderful A Tale Best Forgotten. An absolute gem.
"How refreshing to find James Grant singing with the likes of Lee Dorsey, Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard: even if it is only through samples.
Long after the strained synthetic funk of his band Love and Money, it's
clear that what this Scot does best is whip up an atmosphere, and his latest
collaboration with producer Donald Shaw finds them concocting a rich stew of
moody settings for poems by Blake and Auden, Emily Dickinson and even
Charles Buckowski, who intones his own miserable ditty. It's hit-and-miss
fare, nicely spiced with the wonderful, Emmylou-ish voice of Monica Queen.
(3 OUT OF 5)
A departure for the farmer Love and Money frontman in that rather than his own material, this features arrangements of poetry from the likes of William Blake, ee cummings, WH Auden, Emily Dickinson and Rimbaud. Such projects run the danger of being either archly pretentious or unlistenably crass, but Grant pulls it off with aplomb, bringing his soul and Celtic musical sensibilities to bear to sympathetic, intoxicating effect, never cowed by the stature of the words but never intent on beating them out of shape either. The voice sounds increasingly akin to equally underrated countryman Jackie Leven, imbuing the material with the sort of emotional depth and resonance it deserves. Ironically Grant's isn't the first voice you hear but that of ex Thrum songstress Monica Queen lending her weary melancholic tones to a dark alt-country reading of Helen Adam's A Tale Best Forgotten and, later, to the uplifting jangling take on cummings' anyone lived in a pretty how town. She's not the only guest. Charles Bukowski gets to lend his voice to his own The Tragedy of the Leaves, reading against Grant's spare acoustic guitar and film-noir strings. There's also a sample from Lee Dorsey's Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky bringing an unlikely but effective dimension to Blake's Long John Brown and Little Mary Bell.
Elsewhere Grant surrounds himself with piano, dobro and guitar to read Dickinson's Wild Nights, enlists Freddie Hubbard's recording of Red Clay with Herbie Hancock to give a suitably urban claustrophobia mood to Rimbaud's The Triumph of Hunger and introduces a neat touch of bouzouki into Auden's Lady Weeping At The Crossroads. Edwin Muir's apocalyptic The Horses, read in hushed tones, strikes a chilling contemporary note, underscoring Grant's intention to bring alive the resonances, concerns and human passions embodies in the poems he has chosen. That it happens to stand up as bloody good album too is even more of a recommendation.
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