FAME Review: Dudley Saunders - Monsters
Dudley Saunders - Monsters


Dudley Saunders

Strange Troubadours - ST0101

Available from Dudley Saunders' Bandcamp page.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Well, the friggin' holidays are now history, so it's back to work, and what better way to hit my very first review of 2013 than with Dudley Saunders, whose last release elicited one of the best reviews I wrote in all of 2009 [here]. The guy's manneredly odd work has that kind of effect, in Monsters blending dark narrative poetry into moodily light, tuneful, folky atmospheres so well that you don't believe you're hearing what you're hearing until the nightshade soul of the whole creeping affair has its hooks deeply embedded. Start with What Rats are We if you think I'm exaggerating. The release is aptly named but could apply to everything Saunders has ever done, as listening to the guy's lyrics is like tuning into a particularly thoughtful episode of Criminal Minds, fascination and a shudder mounting as the urban dramas demonstrate what the mailman and cable guy are really like when they get off work.

This time around, there's a lot more Shawn Phillips in his voice and compositional technique, especially circling around that sadly neglected troubadour's superb Furthermore period, but then there's What I Won't Do, heavily Jack Bruce-ian, in the refrains almost Rope Ladder to the Moon intense. A cotillion of 10 sessioneers variously back Saunders with soft delicate machinations nudging his plaintively crooning voice ever more to the front of the stage, engineer Ed Tree maintaining a careful mix. The result provides a delectable mixture of pastels and sepia tones deceptive in their illuminations.

With lines like "We're so wrong we are right / We belong inside this night" and stanzas like:

What cries for an embrace
And then pulls away
What stays when it should go
What leaves when it needs a home
What seeks a crowd
Then yearns to be alone
Just go on, I'll only slow you down
And the monster's coming now

…it's difficult not to get pulled into the psychodramas entablatured, sweet succubine melodies and wafting breezes slipping to one side, taking your hand with utmost affection but grinning behind your back, nodding slit-eyed to each other, licking their teeth in anticipation. Monsters, however, is a bit more humanely inclined than 09's The Emergency Lane. Dudley is, I think, entering a new phase. What started in the 80s as transgressive performance art in New York's East Village then yielded to influences in Appalachian music, art-rock, jazz, and the abstract potpourri found at the famed Knitting Factory is evolving into subtler manifestations. Monsters heads back to older Village Vanguard days but with Edward Gorey as doorman, a pacified Alice Cooper stamping your ticket, and Uncle Creepy showing you to your seat.

Track List:

  • We Were Right
  • Zero Out
  • Monster
  • The Man in the Game
  • Roving
  • What Rats Are We
  • What I Won't Do
  • Wheelchair in the 7-11 Parking Lot
  • Rosewood Casket
  • Coal Tattoo
All songs written by Dudley Saunders except "Coal Tattoo" (Billy Edd Wheeler).

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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