Duke Garwood's seen plenty of the ass end of life, and the moment Sometimes opens Heavy Love to your ears, you'll step back and exclaim "Oh geez, Leonard Cohen's brother!", next shouting to the wife: "Hon, do we have any tranks left? I'm gonna need 'em". Then you'll listen to the whole CD and likely reflect back regarding his wastrel/aesthete life that "Naw, that can't be so. This cat's making all the hardtack stuff up. He's got talent. Such people get by!" And that's so…sometimes; too often, it isn't. Garwood's been beyond his fair share of drugs, serially homeless, has descended into dipsomania more than a few times, and I'm guessing we'd do well to look aside from affairs of the heart. Then, even as a procession of releases made their way to a grateful public, no money flowed his way, and the mobius strip kept winding up at the same destination as it had begun.
How he made it to this moment is anyone's guess, a born survivor I suppose, but this CD isn't terribly redemptive in the way most would understand karma, as, for his sins and hedonisms, Garwood's payment in skin is truth, and that's a dark burden. The gent's atmospheres are spare and foggy, the bourn of specters and disembodied misfortunates. His instruments are spooky and phantasmal, often flowing into each other or echoing off distant gravestones. The work of Nick Cave, Tom House, Robert Wyatt, and Nick Drake at his most morose permeate things but also the influence of the Master Musicians of Joujouka, as you'll see in that unusual finger-style playing of this:
If, like me, you're enamored of threnodics, you'll get dark-wave folkery in abundance here, floating psychedelia dragging it towards the ocean, under the prairie, into cloudy skies. Garwood doesn't rave, never chokes—though you can tell certain memories and looming prospects may back him off a step or two every so often—and isn't interested in Boy Scout scenarios, just the duty to observe, reflect, and report back. His epistolaries are a form of rumination and warning. Snake Man, in fact, comes off with something of Clint Eastwood's old gritty Good, Bad, & Ugly personna ('Blondie', The Man With No Name)…were, that is, that dusty cigar-chompin' gunslinger to have had a romantic notion in him, dark and mysterious even in broadest daylight, eyes slitted. Yeah, I could see it. Wouldn't get near it, though. Not on your life. Best to listen from miles away, safe and cozy, chamomile tea and blueberry muffins in hand, the windows shuttered against the night.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2015, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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