Madison King has all her ducks in a row on this second release, Onward & Upward, starting right from the superb head-shot cover photo by W. Scott Davis, where the corner washed-out overexposure (dodged in?) is almost mystical, counterbalanced by surrounding earthy ambience and regalia, a matter of, as Paolo Soleri put it, matter becoming spirit becoming matter. Marvelous piece of work. You can't help but look at it and think "Whoa! Cool!". Then there's the fact that, alongside her singing and acoustic guitar, King wrote and arranged everything here, then nabbed Paul Williams (not the Phantom of the Paradise and Rainy Days and Mondays guy, the other one) and Grammy nominated engineer Andrew Mendelson to come up with ringing ethereal atmospherics to lift her heavily folkified country mannerisms up into the sky.
I was at times, for the noted sonic clime, in this disc reminded of Nuclear Valdez. Yeah, N.V. was a lot rock and rollier, but they had the same highly attractive invasion of light all through their work, something much needed in these dark times. Hailing from Texas, King has a hardtack twang to her voice and can alternatingly or all-at-once become as high-spirited as wistful as hard-charging. In fact, Dallas Summer Nights well illustrates all of that, from laconic lament to wailing banshee of love. Then the ballad Lessons Learned in Love slides in on the wings of a sorrowful angel bearing a very cool central verse: "I wish I'd never learned how it feels to cry". That's an 11-syllable haiku, y'all, not just mere poetics.
Onward & Upward has 'radio' and 'charts' written all over it, every single cut, and if the damned airwaves would carry more of this ilk of palpable music, I'd listen one hell of a lot more. I know I'm not the only one, 'cause almost no one I know listens to that little squawkbox any more. No big loss, since everything's been choked up in hideous corporatism, but if your ears have been a bit thirsty, remembering how Kim Carnes made a big splash and then disappeared, you'll find much of those days here…more, in fact, than Carnes offered. Kimmy was a good ol' girl and a solid 50%-er—half her LPs great, the other half mediocre (tried just a bit too hard to 'go pop')—but King's solid all the way through. Shitkckers, romantics, and moonlight rockers are all going to find much here, all and sundry coming together on The Best Damn Night.
I do, however, have a small side note: guitarist Wade Cofer wasn't used quite enough. The guy has a distinctive touch on dobro and slide, inflections adding a lot of subtlety when he appears on four of the eleven cuts. Burton Lee and John Pedigo do a great job taking up the slack on two other tracks, but Cofer has that magic something that separates the Lindleys and Landreths from the barroom 'n studio boyz. He, more than anyone else among these very good musicians, most closely echoes King, and I sure would like to hear more. That, however, is not a criticism, but just a music lover's hopeful annotation.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles