Kelly Blair Bauman – Gomorrah

January 01, 1970

(Arena Rock Recording Company)

 

www.arenarock.com

 

Portland-based Kelly Blair Bauman’s solo debut Gomorrah comes off as a country recording periodically co-opted by introspective,
psychedelic-folk ghosts. It swings back and forth between straight-forward
country rock back-beats with twangy electric guitars a la Sweetheart Of The Rodeo era Byrds, and more ambitious, reverb
soaked, near experimental material; imagine Radiohead putting out an
alt-country record (see “Sorry Tries” and “Grace”).

 

The opener “Back And Forth” sets the tone of lush, roots
rock Americana instrumentation accompanied by
somewhat mysteriously dark and poetic lyrics. Adding to the mystery is the
regularly murky mix and performance of the always heartfelt vocals. Bauman paid
close attention to his lyrics on Gomorrah and refers to them as “…heartfelt stories of
me struggling to find heart in people during the Bush years. There was, and
continues to be, a sort of ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game…’ copout in
society… I suppose the album title is a reference to a lost city that fatally
choked on its own excess…”

 

But you’d be hard-pressed to find any overt references
pointing to specific Bush-era excess on Gomorrah. Collateral damage
could be inferred but it would take a very personal interpretation of the
lyrics. Relatedly, Bauman’s lyrics can be so personal that listening to some of
them feels like an invasion of privacy. Topics seemingly range from
prostitution, to falling in love, shame, and the realization of death. Most are
sufficiently vague and open to wide interpretation.

 

Gomorrah’s best
tunes are its most straight forward – lyrically and sonically: “I Saw You, I
Saw You,” “I Made It Up,” “Elevator Up,” and “Fountain.” The lyric from “I Saw
You, I Saw You” represents both the recording’s strengths and one of its odd
weaknesses. The full lyric of the song:

 

 

“I saw
you, I saw you/ Give up to the night/ There was dancing and drinking/ And
staring just right/ You gave up all your friends for/ Love you would spite/ We
held hands and slept well that night.”

 

This is a fine example of a terse, melancholy late-night bar
hookup country ballad with a distinct Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris vibe. It’s a
direct balance of desperation and sweetness with its key line being “love you
would spite.” And that key line is the problem. That’s the lyric written on the
inside of the CD package, but it’s not what’s sung on the recording. What’s
sung is “love that just might.” This
change doesn’t alter the song’s meaning slightly – it turns it on its head.
There are many discrepancies like this between what’s printed on the CD and
what’s sung on the recording. None as dramatic as in “I Saw You,” but enough to
be frustrating to the observant listener/reader. However, for most listeners
these issues will go unnoticed as the ambient sounds of Gomorrah‘s country soul will simply be a
pleasure.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“I Made It Up,” “I Saw You, I Saw You,” “Fountain” JOHN
DWORKIN

 

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