Now this is unexpected. From the quasi-goatroperish pic on the reverse of the promo copy, Jonathan Wilson would appear to be another urban cowboy, but that's far from the case. The gent has an exceptionally mature way with soft rock sporting gigantic dimensions of atmosphere and emotional range flanked by subject matter that departs from established norms. Comparisons have been made to Nick Drake, Alex Chilton, and Gram Parsons, but I'm forced to disagree. First of all, Wilson has all Chilton's post-Box Top's work beat by a mile and a half, and his work is in no fashion akin to Parsons' ultra-country refrains, though I'll cede that there is a bit of the uber-estimable Drake in him. More to the point, though, he's his own man and not easily compared. There are strains of elder Americana running through the assemblage here but so heavily modernized, and so dauntingly, that the imputation would be grossly unfair, missing the point of the seductive arrangements.
Road 92 gives away the somewhat misinterpreted Drake allusions. The strings are quite John Cale-ish, indeed recalling his brilliant work with Nick, but Wilson's mode isn't of a piece with Drake…though, were the gentle composer still alive, he'd be very interested in Frankie Ray, finding much kindred while well enough differentiated. The feel between the two, for instance is very much a matter of Druidic fairyfolk Britain as against the American West urbanized through Sergio Leone rather than set with baling wire through John Ford. One listen to the stripped-down title cut, Frankie Ray, shows this clearly, temporarily peeling away the gossamer to expose the antecedents.
This disc is a release of unusual fidelity. The entire thing hangs together deliciously, wistfully, allowing the listener to sit back into pensivities about love, loss, ennui, the perplexity of being an individual in a sea of conforming humanoids, and so on without ever having to step outside the confines of one's head, each successive cut building into a ceaseless ebb and flow of emotionality and art. That isn't done much any more, and, when it is, it's rarely this full-bodied or genuine.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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