I reported below on last Saturday's arrival of Fought Down, the debut release from Ken Layne & the Corvids. It sounded very fine indeed coming out of the computer speakers. After kicking myself all day Sunday for having left it in the CD drive at the office, I moved it into the car on Monday and it has been living there ever since. It served me well while driving to Santa Barbara and back today.
"You're in for a good time," promises Mr. Layne on the opening track ("Ain't They Pretty") and he and the Corvids are true to their word. This is 38 minutes (perfect length for a vinyl LP) of top quality "alt country," in love with the sound of guitars and manly mournfulness. The songs that repeat from Layne's earlier Analog Bootlegs CD (sales of which funded the recording of this one and to which I referred a'way back here) emerge shiny and new: "Lincoln Town Car" is a great fell-in-with-the-wrong-woman-and-boy-do-I-regret-it tale -- dark enough that Richard Thompson would sound right covering it. The revamped "I Should Be That Guy" is riveting, with a searing bridge and fearsome coda; the live version on Bootlegs had the primal anguish meter turned up to 11, and the song benefits hugely from the more controlled performance here. My only quibble is with "Worried," which is the irresistible highlight of Bootlegs. The version here is a poppin' piece of work, a barrel of fun to listen to, but it won't replace the earlier acoustic guitar/harmonica/drum machine version in my particular affections. [The new version is available as an MP3 download at Amazon, here.]
The new songs are equal in quality to the older ones. "Here's to You" is a drinking song with a spring in its step that yields the "Charles Shaw Wine" lyric I quoted previously. (I e-mailed Matt Welch about it, and he informs me that he wrote the beginning of that verse but that Layne is responsible for the product placement.) "Fought Down" chugs along crunchily while "Glitter On" is as mournful and pretty as it's title would lead you to expect.
Ken Layne still sounds a lot like Mick Jagger when you could still believe he meant it (circa Sticky Fingers), with a fair dollop of Jennings (Waylon, not Peter) and Haggard mixed in. Axel Steuerwald's lead guitar work brings out the best in these well crafted songs. The production is loose but clean: you can hear what every member of the band is doing throughout. And when he isn't providing the odd guitar or dead-on backing vocal, Matt Welch picks up a tambourine and becomes The Next Davy Jones!
I've added a link to Amazon's page in my Music list below -- there's no cover photo available there yet, and they are listing the CD as being available on February 1 -- or you can purchase it direct from the source.
P.S., for all you wine fanciers, there is "a bottle of Rioja" secreted about the person of the title track, in addition to that case of Charles Shaw referred to below. Ken Layne seems to know an important rule in life: Real Wine is Red. Or it has bubbles in it. But never both.
UPDATE: The aforementioned Matt "The Cute One" Welch has kindly linked to this review. Thanks, Matt, and welcome Matt's readers.
So which one's "The Quiet Corvid"?
STILL FURTHER UPDATE: The King Corvid himself, Ken Layne, has also linked approvingly, claiming that I have figured out his voice better than he has himself. It's all a bit much for a simple lawyer from Pasadena, it truly is. Thank you, Mr. Layne, sir, for the link and above all for this fine, fine music.