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1st October 2021

JERRDAVID DeCICCA – THE UNLIKELY OPTIMIST AND HIS DOMESTIC ADVENTURES

(LP from Worried Songs)

Easily my favourite record label anywhere right now, not least for the pure analogue and DIY aesthetic that pervades everything they do, Jerry David DeCicca’s solo album ‘The Unlikely Optimist’ is almost certainly the release that’ll see Worried Songs and their affable manager Chaz Hewitt promoted at the end of this season to the First Division.

It’s the third (I think) album released by former Black Swans leader Jerry David DeCicca since he applied his unique perspective on songwriting and his unmistakably gravelly voice to refashioning himself as an outsider singer-songwriter in the cosmic Americana field, and he’s assembled quite a cast of Texas compadres to accompany him including Augie Meyers of the Sir Douglas Quintet, Ralph White of Bad Livers, Scrawl’s Jovan Karcic, DeCicca’s partner Eve Searls and his former Black Swans bandmate Canaan Faulkner. Together they’ve somehow fashioned a fabulous mix of country, folk and hard rock plus the occasional hint of psychedelia. 

There’s a clue to the album’s title in a statement issued with the record. “My whole life, I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression,”DeCicca is quoted as saying, “But through music, people who love me, and meaningful work, I’ve gathered enough light to keep getting out of bed. And, in my own way, I’ve become a more positive person and I feel very lucky for that.” 

The “domestic adventures” referenced in the title include such gems as ‘Country Cookie,’ ‘Grape Jelly’ and ‘Coffee Black’. The excitement really builds though when DeCicca leads his band of minstrels out into the great outdoors. The nearly 11 minute long cosmic-country road epic ‘West Texas Trilogy’ features the outstanding opening line “I can smell gasoline and tacos,” and “I See Horizons” (for me the strongest track on the album) features DeCicca’s grizzled and stubbly narration backed by some lively saxophone and incisive electric guitar. 

Although recorded pre-pandemic, this paean to the simple pleasures of food, home, holding on tight to the ones you love and reflecting on the great outdoors makes it very much a record of our times. Love it.

(Phil McMullen)

1st June 2021

SKY BURROW TALES - BACKPORCHIN’ & SEAFARIN’ 

(LP from Feathered Coyote Records)

It was the whimsical acid-folk-meditations set against star-speckled forest soundscapes that first pulled me in, although if that hadn’t already won me over then the laid-back interstellar jams with echoes (ha!) of Steve Hillage in his pomp would’ve floored me. As it is, this evocative debut album, with each track book-ended by field recordings of miscellaneous bird-song and the sound of tumbling streams, reminded me of the sacred texts of Fit and Limo - and that’s an appropriate analogy too as it tuns out, since the driving force behind Sky Burrow Tales is another duo, in this case Ulrich and Swantje Musa-Rois, who were kind enough to respond to a few questions when I wrote and asked for some background on this intriguing collection. 


“We got to know each other in early 2018 and started to make music together in the summer of 2019, and immediately began to record this album, although we worked on a couple of tapes and compilation contributions in between. The album was recorded in our home studios in Vienna and Waidhofen/Ybbs. The field recordings were taken in Waidhofen (were Uli grew up) and at the beach in Wilhelmshaven (where Swantje grew up).”


Although the record is (as is so often the case) most rewarding when listened to as an album, i.e. from start to finish with no interruptions, the real stand-out for me has to be the title track ‘The Road to Sky Burrow,’  an eleven-minute long acid-drenched dreamscape that set against a repetitive electronic drum pattern. Imagine if you will Neu! and MV & EE jamming together at some celestial Terrastock third stage and you’ll be part way there. 


“We’re currently working on our next album, but that is still in the very early stages” Uli and Swantje concluded. “What we can say is that the songs seem to take on some more progressive elements, as in longer composed section, but still lots of room for jamming.”I for one can’t wait to hear the results.


(Phil McMullen)

thewheel

THE WHEEL – S/T

(LP from thewheelcgy.com)


This was a lovely surprise to receive, full-cream melodic Canadiana that’ll put a crease in your denims and a smile on your face. Lovingly crafted in glorious analogue and meticulously mixed using vintage equipment, The Wheel's self-titled debut LP is unashamedly packed with songs of love, loss and longing.


 ‘No One Can Save Her’ kicks off with a beautifully full-toned guitar that rings like the introduction to a Neil Young and Crazy Horse epic. ‘Worry Doll’ (and the title track itself over on the B side) sounds like it’s lifted straight off the Workingman’s Dead sessions; a hint of which is woven into the very fabric of the band’s being it seems. ‘Forward’ features a gorgeous pedal-steel guitar riff from Wayne Garrett, one of the stars of this particular show; and ‘Mind Leads’ features world-weary vocals that put me in mind of the Miracle Legion, which is no bad thing at all. Finally ‘Slow Dance’ gradually works its way into your heart with some absolutely gorgeous guitar lines from Jamey Lougheed and Mike Corbiell. 


There’s four guitarists in all including electric, lap steel and pedal steel plus vocalist and acoustic guitarist Patrick Whitten. It was Patrick that took the trouble to answer some of my questions regarding the background to The Wheel.


“The Wheel began as a psychedelic folk electric guitar duo sometime in 2012 [and] was fully formed in 2015 with a bunch of like minded music enthusiasts and record collectors from several different bands all falling into place at just the right time to cater to a collection of songs I had written during the preceding years. We've been practicing and doing live performances ever since. 


"As for the record, Danny Vescarelli (Devonian Gardens) tipped me off that local studio, "Magnetic North", not only had the best hourly rate in town, but was also the best fully analog studio that Calgary had to offer. We went in and laid down the bed tracks live off the floor in two days, then I managed to nitpick the thing for nearly 4 years before its completion in 2020”. 


And as for that magical something that they seem so successfully to have captured? 


“The title track was recorded onto a Stephens 821b tape machine that belonged to The Grateful Dead from 1979 well into the early 80's as part of their live recording rig." So that explains that, then.


Any future plans for The Wheel? “We're nearly ready to jump back into the studio to record the follow up album, my solo acoustic record is completed and ready for release, and I've got enough songs written for at least the next two The Wheel albums which should commence recording later this year.”


A suitably up-beat note to end on, and far better than my original intention which was to sign off by crediting Patrick as being the spokesman for the Wheel. 


Sorry…..


(Phil McMullen)