Brad Smith, the linch-pin of Abandon Jalopy, was also a member of Blind Melon, and if that group was anything like this one, I'm going to have to go back and check 'em out 'cause I'd only ever heard of the ensemble—hey! we crits have to go through 300 gigabaskillion CDs every year!; it's tough to get to everyone—and this one, Abandon Jalopy, is a helluva follow-up unit. Except for one co-penned cut, Smith wrote everything, and the guy's definitely formidable, crafting big environments that swim with psychedelic coruscations and compelling ballads (All the Way and others). He also tends to a curious juxtaposition of opposing sentiments and thus we have not only the CD's title but also the cover photo of a young innocent girl in an idyllic field contemplating a tall blooming weed while…holding a knife you could gut a cougar with!
There's snap and verve to a lot of the tracks here, and many are deceptively layered, working a lush atmosphere in more dimensions than are at first grasped. My guess is that Smith has listened to a lot of high-period 70s music as Death & Joy is drenched with the era's unique style, including a mellotron (that's what I clearly hear though no keyboards are credited in the liner) and a floatingly rustic utopia in a soundfield oscillating between wistful, spacey, and eerie.
Though I catch essences of Ian Hunter, Justin Hayward, psych-period Beatles, Mission UK, and such, Smith is distinctive on his own. Lots of great cuts, but I think My Only Heaven is my favorite, a vaultingly laconic pensee on love, life, and the afterworld soon bookended by the grttier I Won't be the Same. This is music that reveals itself fully only in successive listens, and the more you attend it, the more you marvel. I don't think Smith has reached his real plateau yet, but I sure as hell wanna be there when he does 'cause, so far, this Jalopy shines like a sleek futuristic tour bus.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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