A well-played and sung set that could be brought to another level with some lyrical and subject fine-tuning.
‘No Offense, Nevermind, Sorry’, is the latest release from Tulsa-based band Pilgrim, led by front-man and guitarist, Beau Roberson; a competitive wrestler from a young age – so that puts a reviewer on his or her mettle! Beau picked up his first guitar at 14 having discovered it at his Grandmother’s home in Pampa, Texas. ‘I never took lessons, I just kind of locked myself in the room and learned to play’. Growing up, the Roberson house was full of music and Beau’s mother was a piano teacher who sang everything from Aretha Franklin to Willie Nelson. His musical influences ranged far and wide. ‘The first two CDs I ever bought with my own money were two Greatest Hits collections, Bob Dylan and War’. And that I’m afraid despite some research is all I can tell you about the artist and the band – which is a shame.
The current album was recorded at Leon Russell’s former Paradise Studio at Grand Lake in Tia Juana, Oklahoma. Roberson was joined by John Fullbright (keys), Jesse Aycock (steel), Paddy Ryan (drums), Aaron Boehler (bass) and Stephen Lee (guitar).
As the press release would have it – it’s not an easy task to put a label on the contents and genre-wise it spreads far and wide with a mix of rock, funk, country and the blues. I’m neither a fan of nor particularly gifted at the ‘sounds like’ game but vocally Roberson did remind me of Andrew Combs, with an effortless command of the lyrics and real appeal in his singing.
‘Darkness of The Bar’, opens with a lovely lazy groove and lyrically a powerful image with the feel of honky-tonk cum western swing and, as throughout, the accompanists serve the whole project very well. The album is full of little instrumental flourishes and here it’s the organ, a piano, and eventually something akin to a gospel choir. It’s the tale of another sad alcoholic suffering from the, ‘Family Disease,’ who, it seems, has managed to alienate everyone and is probably on the verge of losing the good woman waiting outside – because,
‘It’s just so hard to see her light from the darkness of the bar’,
I feel I should be more sympathetic to what is a terrible social ill but to be honest it feels like the barrel is full to the brim with maudlin songs about indulgence and it is rare that anyone brings anything new to the subject. Fortunately, there are songs here that don’t all come from the bottom of a glass.
‘Out of Touch’, is a tale of frustrated love which features the rockier side of the band with a muscular outro. ‘Pray for You’, features another subtle intro and there are no faithless women in sight as the joys of fatherhood are explored. A child arrives and, ‘Now I Pray for You’. It’s tender and quite touching.
‘Hallelujah Moment’, is a tribute to a woman, ‘Lefty’ ponders the death of a friend and, ‘High on the Banks’, considers lost friendship and the good times as scuffling musicians together, all now in the past.
Whilst, ‘Backslider’, features a pin-sharp guitar solo it feels consciously or unconsciously like it might slip into, ‘The Great Pretender’, at any moment. Nor does it really work as a vocal, seeming not to suit Roberson’s otherwise excellent singing.
‘Scar Across my Heart,’ feels like pure country – and there’s nothing up with that as it ponders more lost love,
‘Babe now I’m busted / No faith in anything I have trusted / I’ve grown worn and rusted’.
The least convincing track is, ‘Katie’, the only non-original and written by Fred Eaglesmith (an artist and a lyricist I would normally rate highly).
‘I opened the door and there she was / In the arms of my friend Joe / And she wasn’t wearing many clothes’.
To be honest it sings a bit better than it reads and by way of an ‘unexpected’ ending, he shoots them both. Not one of Eaglesmith’s best.
The final track, ‘Rodeo Man’, is an atmospheric dark departure that could be an out-take from Nebraska (that alright with you Boss?). If the story is a twisted one then the treated vocals and the eerie Harmonica are very effective and mark it as quite different from the rest of the album – and as one of its highlights. The lyric seems to almost end prematurely which as the whole thing fades is quite effective and you may wish there were more like this on the album.
This disc scores highly for the vocals and music and on that front it’s a good listen. It scores less well for some of the lyrics and some rather obvious choices of subject matter. It’s interesting that it was produced in the shadow of Leon Russell who was one of the finest of writers as songs like, ‘Oklahoma’, and, ‘Alcatraz’, testify. Something to aspire to for the future perhaps?