This one arrived just in time to make my Best Of list here in FAME…and also in Perfect Sound Forever…and was exactly the stunner I needed in order to see the year out properly. The promo lit portrays it as "a hallucinatory hybrid of blues, country, boogie, gospel, and rock" then moves on to claim Jace Everett possesses "remarkable artistic range and always-impressive songwriting", and I wouldn't dream for a second of disputing an inch of that. I'd never heard of the guy, but he wrote the song Bad Things which runs as the theme to the TV vampire show True Blood, so it's not like the cat's unknown either. His music, though, is of a rare sort, and Terra Rosa is fascinating in any number of ways.
First of all, Everett's another Tony Carey, and Terra is a concept album. Carey was the multi-instrumentalist and singer who'd joined up with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow as that esteemed group wound down its existence, and he also put together the band Planet P Project, which released exactly two LPs, the second of which was Pink World, a more than obvious play on The Who's Tommy but far more in line with Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds sonically, a lush, smooth, rockin' progressive masterpiece, in this not so humble critic's opinion. None who know of it have anything but glowing reviews, and they're going to be just as enthusiastic here, as Everett's one very talented gent, and his approach to Christianity and its issues, which is the subject of Terra, is a very Jesuitically styled blend of faith and cynicism, as witness:
My sister's at your beck and call
…and then further on, this:
There was faith
Not exactly Billy Graham, is it? But it isn't meant to be. Unlike the charlatan Graham, Everett is, in his own words "going back to [his] closet and pulling all the skeletons out". That, my friends, is where religion must meet reality, and a reconciliation needs to be had. Is that tension resolved, though? No, and, despite what I just said, it shouldn't be because we're more in the archipelago wherein Dante and Vergil both doubted and thus stood on the brink:
There was laws, and there was rules
Doesn't that ring too solidly true of God, religion, government, capitalism, and just about everything right now? But the magic's in the music while the narrative runs its course, and the music is stunningly good, starting with the elegiac In the Garden, a prog-bluesy angst song that, though positive, has a double-bind catch-line: "I don't want to be free", and therein lies a world of thought and the necessity to confront the self and its contractions. Mr. Everett is being a lot more subtle throughout this CD than the frequently Humanist lyrics might otherwise indicate. You won't read and hear this from other Christian ensembles and solos (Petra, Wes King, Phil Keaggy, etc.) and it may very well be that Everett's contemplating a post-Erasmian Humanist spiritualism.
Aren't we all.
The band is a highly integrated ensemble wringing explicitly imagistic environments to matrix poetry and philosophy in a continuous narrative of laconic reflection that can't help but entrance and bewitch. In the Garden is followed by a chain-gang work song, No Place to Hide, with strong gospel overtones in a slo-rockin' folk bedframe. Everett's authoritative in his many shades of singing, and his numerous strengths show up everywhere. In a trice, he switches to carny barker cabaret valence in Lloyd's Summer Vacation, warm and exuberant but taunting, almost verging on Mephistophelian, atop a bouncy bass-anchored flounce that soon bogs down in a molasses chaos refrain, a deliciously almost neoclassical arrangement in populist terms. No matter where you go in this release, everything is 100%+.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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