The Satyrswitch – The High Lonesome Sound of… (Camera Obscura)
As a longtime champion of the Minneapolis underground music scene, I’ve frequently promoted the works of Skye Klad, Salamander, Gentle Tasaday, Ousia, et al., so I’m pleased to add this solo project of Skye Klad vocalist/guitarist, Jason Kesselring (along with invited guests from the aforementioned acts) to the growing list of great bands emanating from the Twin Cities. Kesselring’s Ian Curtis-styled gothic death metal vocals, one of the prime components of Skye Klad’s sound, is in stark contrast to the mostly traditional folk tunes interpreted here, such as the two opening tracks, “Boys of Bedlam” and “Jack Orion.” Skye Klad partner Erik Wivinus adds additional guitar on the latter, a toe-tappin’, bar-brawlin’ barnstormer that inexplicably seems to stop mid-verse.
The Kesselring original “Angel of Wolves” is a head-swaying sea shanty whose melody seems overly derivative of Lee Hazelwood’s “Some Velvet Morning” and, as such, may have benefited from some female accompaniment. The short, acoustic burst of “Second Air” is grounded in the work of Davey Graham and Bert Jansch, while the yee-hah, shitkickin’, country-flavored “Under the Double Eagle” is a catchy saloon tune that’ll have Matt Dillon kickin’ up his heels with Miss Kitty at the Longbranch Saloon in old Dodge City.
Kesselring and Co. (Wivinus and Jason’s wife, Chrissy on keyboard sitar) take a valiant stab at “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” but Salamander’s jaw-dropping version on the recent Hand/Eye compilation has all but rendered further interpretations superfluous. Having played on that previous version, perhaps Wivinus might have encouraged his pal to look elsewhere for a different inspirational track to cover. Things are righted quickly on “Israfel,” a raga-styled jam of fancy fretwork that rivals Robbie Basho and Sandy Bull as well as the work of current masters of the form like 6 Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasney, Cul De Sac’s Glenn Jones, and Magic Carpathian, Marek Stycsynski.
“Kindred,” again featuring Kesselring’s wife on keyboard sitar may not be his strongest vocal performance, but it does emit somewhat of a stoner, improvisational vibe a la Ya Ho Wa 13. Then it’s time to break out the Thai sticks for the lengthy (7:00) traditional arrangement of “Nottamun Town,” which actually had me thinking I was joining Cary Wolf on one of his Stuntz’s Blue Leg expeditions only to find more than ‘shrooms and what I bargained for at the end of the rainbow. The stony, heavy-lidded, intimate living room vibe of Kesselring’s delivery only adds to its inimitable charm.
All in all, another wonderful addition to the rapidly expanding oeuvre of marvelous wyrdfolk releases and highly recommended to fans of the aforementioned artists, as well as Stone Breath, In Gowan Ring, Martyn Bates, and older classics like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s East-West, Seventh Sons’ 4 a.m. At Frank’s, or Jorma’s Quah (the bluesy closer “Three Maidens” oozes a particularly fine taste of Hot Tuna overdosed with a World Serpent sensibility).
|jeff penczak 2004 oct 22|