Dolorean – The Unfazed

January 01, 1970

(Partisan)

 

www.partisanrecords.com

 

Four years after their last album, You
Can’t Win
, an eon in the blog cycle, Dolorean returns with a quiet triumph.
The Unfazed is unassumingly
beautiful, doggedly self-assured, as weathered and comfortable as an old pair
of jeans. In an age of “ooh shiny!” distraction, Dolorean has honed in on
essentials and allowed them to speak for themselves.

 

Al James has emerged as a master of understatement, crafting melodies
strong enough to be whispered and still make an impact, lyrics telling enough
to be tossed off and still hit home. His band, likewise, doesn’t overplay its
hand. Opener “Thinskinned,” tantalizes with instrumental ideas, Jay Clarke’s lovely
piano line, James Adair’s dense, nearly subliminal bass line, Kate O’Brien
Clark’s dizzying violin runs. Yet these ideas are never allowed to overwhelm
the piece or distract from its clean, melodic lines. Bosque Brown’s Mara Miller
sings softly in highlight “Country Clutter,” her warm alto twining with James’
sandpapered tenor. Yet the main attraction, here and elsewhere, is not any
guest appearance, but the sure, inevitable way that the melody curls around
stories of heartache and resilience. There’s a gospel-tinged certainty, a sense
of persistence against odds, in many of these songs, nowhere more so than the
title track. Here James declares himself unfazed by a litany of troubles, from
the weather to money troubles, to aging, to life and death itself. You believe
him, because somewhere in the mesh of steel guitar, piano, drums, swelling
organ and piano there’s a thread of survival, of hardship overcome and turned
into art.

 

Most of the tracks hew closely to Americana traditions, yet perhaps the most
striking is “Black Hills Gold,” all smouldery, subterranean rumble and slow
syncopation. It turns mournful country blues into psychedelic soul, and despite
its dark subject matter, pulses with sensuality.  Here as elsewhere, The Unfazed turns its back on flash-in-the-pan trends and gimmicky
attention getters, and goes straight to the heart of things. It’s a serious
record for serious times – and if it doesn’t blow up on you the first time you
play it, don’t worry, it’ll grow on you. 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Country Clutter,” “Black
Hills Gold” JENNIFER
KELLY

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