Context in music is everything. The black gem of ‘Love Rides a Dark Horse’ has been followed by a slightly brighter point on a brooding personal journey. Relatively speaking this album demonstrates another step in Landry’s cathartic therapy of songwriting. The broken heart has been replaced by a degree more reflection, albeit one with a hefty residual of bitterness and cynicism still present.
Gill wrote this album during a period of splendid isolation in a small village in Western France with minimal exposure to the outside world, straight off the back of a tour. The experience “gave me an objectivity I didn’t even know I was looking for”. That relocation to France has also yielded a more continental sound with a bit less Americana and a bit more Leonard Cohen than his previous record release.
‘I Love You Too’ has been issued as a single and is a moody pensive reflection on love with a slow tempo and steel guitar. ‘The Wolf’ is one of the most readily accessible songs here; it combines a classic Americana feel with harmonica accompaniment and couples analysis on both personal and cultural choices: “don’t you know you can’t have what you want if all you ever want is more”. ‘Nobody’s Coming’ is one of a number of songs that justifiably draw comparison to Cohen in both lyrics and composition. A direct critique of religion and the need for the acceptance of our own responsibility is overlaid on a smooth Latin tune with trumpet and violin. ‘The Place They Call Home’ effectively utilises soaring violin with piano and bleak lyrics “from the poorhouse to the jailhouse, the distance ain’t long” that question the American dream. ‘Angeline’ is straight up polemic from the classic Dylan songbook (think ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’) with mandatory harmonica and represents the best cynical sing-along on the album.
Gill describes this album as “A series of reflections and thoughts on the collective hallucination that is America and a few love songs for good measure”. Overall, this is an accomplished and professional album with dark lyrical content reflecting constrained frustration and anger. This is not music for everyone, everyday but it clearly has a place, and for some it will resonate. Landry retains his characteristic dry humour and honesty throughout which ensures this never becomes maudlin.