Dan Stuart-The Deliverance Of Marlowe Billings (Cadiz Records)
The new album from Dan Stuart is full of his trademark alt / country /blues & it’s rather good.
Dan Stuart, former frontman and main songwriter with alt. country/Americana legends Green On Red has been off the radar for some time now. His last foray into the ether was his Danny And Dusty collaboration with Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate in 2007.
He’s unfortunately not been enjoying a happy retirement, however; a collapsed marriage led to an admission to a New York psychiatric facility wherein he absconded to Mexico with the aim of committing suicide.
Thankfully, Stuart rediscovered his love of music, writing and the gentle pace of life south of the border and this joint venture with Sacri Couri is a blazing return to form.
There’s been a raft of “breakup albums”Â over the years, notably Spiritualized’s Ladies And Gentlemen…, Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear and of course Dylan’s vitriolic Blood On The Tracks.
One can safely say that Marlowe Billings can take its place at the table of broken hearts. This is uneasy listening in the extreme.
Opener Can’t Be Found is an excoriating piece of writing. Stuart’s soul is laid bare in this pained, desperate song of lost hope and love. Sacri Couri provide an arid, dusty soundtrack to Stuart’s wounded vocal.
Clean White Sheet is a rolling, intense photograph of a man at the edge. Sacri Couri’s music is not unlike the desert-scarred mariachi of Calexico in places and perfectly frames Stuart’s desperation.
This frantic agitation is never closer to the surface than on What Can I Say?
Stuart’s exhortations of “I can’t go on, I can’t go on”Â sound like the last gasps of a drowning man. Thankfully, the coda bleeds out into “I must go on”Â and although it doesn’t sound like much of an affirmation of life, it’s endearing to hear some relief in his voice.
Gringo Go Home lightens the palate somewhat although it too bears a bittersweet lament. “ Life is cheap in Mexico, are you some loser on the run?”Â reminds one of Stuart’s original reason for heading south into anonymity and the arms of death. Given Stuart’s alleged opiate and alcohol-fuelled lifestyle in his younger days, it’s unsurprising he has an almost world-weary, devil-may-care attitude in his writing. This is a man who has walked the wild side many times before and came out the other side, if not unscathed, at least still breathing.
He’s been a wild man and talks the talk. It’s somehow incredulous that an affair of the heart nearly took him from us. It might sound crass, but music saved him.
Given the quality of this album, we can all be thankful for that.
Dan Stuart’s website can be found here.
All words by Joe Whyte. You can read more from Joe on LTW here.