After listening to Jeffrey Foucault's album "Miles From The Lightning" twice, I thought I was about to be faced with one of those unappealing dilemmas: how do you write a very favorable review about an excellent album - one that has gotten well-deserved rave reviews, one that you easily recognize as excellent - and still say "But it's probably not an album that I'll personally listen to a lot"?
Now that I've gotten THAT out of the way, I'll move on to discuss some of the many excellent qualities of this album.
I absolutely agree with what seems to be the unanimous opinion as to the high level of quality -- the excellence -- of the album. There are a few songs in particular that I find to be as good as one could ever hope for -- Ballad Of Copper Junction and Dove and the Waterline come immediately to mind. These are but two examples of the uniformly excellent songs that comprise this debut album. Owing much to the writing of such highly regarded Texas-bred artists as Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, while not really sounding like either, Foucault has set the bar for his future work at an extremely high level.
Foucault's lyrics and his voice belie his age (mid-twenties), but there's certainly precedent for "wise (and/or weary) beyond his years" writing (Jackson Browne comes to mind in this regard). His voice exhibits the strength of youth and the worldliness of age and experience, and is unique in the most positive of ways - memorable and distinctive, emotive without pretext or pretension. The instrumentation is sparse throughout, consisting primarily of acoustic guitars (played with great skill and taste by Foucault and Peter Mulvey) and the recording quality matches, both in quality and feel, the song writing.
Listening to the album - for probably the fourth time - as I write this review, I'm becoming less convinced that it'll soon be gathering dust on my CD shelves. In fact, as I listen to the opening guitar riff of Californ-i-a, I'm reminded that it has a familiarity to Dylan's Buckets Of Rain, which has reminded me of a recording that my great friend Herve sent me from Paris - a recording that Jeffrey and Danny Schmidt did of Buckets, in which they personalized each line in which the original wording contained the phrase "...honey baby..." to "...Herve baby...", as in "You got all the love, Herve baby, I can stand".
So as I sit here becoming more and more enamoured with this album, I'm reminded of another important piece of wisdom: don't be too quick to make up your mind.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I immediately recognized the excellence of this album. I think my concern was that it was so somber, overall, that I might not be able to find room in my regular listening rotation for any more somber, serious albums. But, with additional listenings and an even greater appreciation for its appeal than I'd initially felt, I think I'll be able to squeeze in at least one more.
If you appreciate great writing, excellent - and sparse - acoustic instrumentation (all the better to let the words be heard), and extremely good recording quality (a very natural, organic sound) - I can highly recommend Jeffrey Foucault's Miles From The Lightning. Whether you listen to it on a regular basis, or just occasionally, it's not an album to be missed.
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