Everything about Dudley Saunders is off, sometimes a good deal so, from that enticing voice to the unorthodox rhythms, colors, and atmospheres that then slip sideways into a set of lyrics frequently raw and disturbing. Don't be fooled by the hypnotically shimmering vocal refrains and interlocking guitar chords beautifully matrixed by a highly tapestristic and echoing backing band, Saunders is exploring the darker corners of the psyche and culture with a set and grim death's-head grin, a psychologist's fascination for the aberrant in deceptively firm resolve, nostrils flaring. The lovely chamber strings and lamentive minor chords? They're meant to lure you into the composer's webwork of madness, seamy side streets, subtle transgressions, and forever menacing shadows with their smackling lurkers. Deception hides everywhere deeply within the crooning minstrel's smile and lidded eyes.
There's a good deal of John Cale's gentleman lunacy here, a poetic line spilling the borders of Keith Reid over into an urban Jean-Paul Marat by way of Krafft-Ebbing, John Rechy, and William Burroughs. The listener who becomes captivated by the gauzy textures of Saunders' musicianship quickly finds himself walking on broken glass with predators kneeling nearby, waiting. The Bruce Cockburn atmospheres and Forever Changes sweetening, mellow progressions, and quiet sense of urgency are not what they seem, palimpsests atop beartraps and bottomless wells. I can imagine the droves of people who will waltz into the spider's den, entranced by delicate filigree and aeolian winds, only to discover what those eight softly glowing crimson orbs gently illuminating the back recesses really are.
You've never picked up on music quite like this before. Art bearing such a shape and form—imbued with weird and shuddersome insights sticky from the viscid belly of psychotic experience, sometimes even dungeonesque grue—has been tried every once and again but never with such lissomely shocking deception. Trust me, this has rarely ever been done, and the guy's fucking brilliant at it. He may remind you of a Shawn Phillips by way of Tim Buckley and Kenny Loggins, but that shadow over yonder? It hides a chuckling Donatien Alphonse Francois. You know him as the only surviving child of the Comte and Comtesse de Sade, and he's cackling, holding a curious item. It may well be something you'd rather not see…but you'll enjoy it anyway, though probably in the dark and uneasily.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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