Album review: Gill Landry – Skeleton At The Banquet

Gill Landry

Gill Landry - Credit: Archant

Landry pulls back from heartbreak to deliver his best record yet.

Gill Landry

Gill Landry - Credit: Archant

The former busker turned Grammy-winning musician (with his former band Old Crow Medicine Show) describes his latest solo record as "a series of reflections and thoughts on the collective hallucination that is America".

But if Skeleton At The Banquet is a coruscating deconstruction of the modern American psyche, it's a well-hidden one.

It follows his heartbroken 2017 break-up album Love Rides A Dark Horse, which was written amid the brusque gales and rains of Washington's north Pacific coast, a well-rounded, melancholic meditation on modern lives, shot through with flashes of rescue and redemption.

Last summer, Landry decamped to a small village in western France to write, before recording in Los Angeles.

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The result is a clutch of poetic, vivid narratives sung in his trademark rich baritone and with a broader subject matter than the agonies of love and loss - though naturally they're still fertile grounds.

From lupine metaphors in the harmonica-dressed The Wolf ("The wolf is at the door again, dressed like my best friend / Promising me everything, if I'll only let her in") to black-clad henchmen and forsaken children (Trouble Town), Landry picks over the human condition with a storyteller's flair.

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But what lifts this record is that Landry takes the sometimes familiar melodic structures of Americana, on tracks like The Place They Call Home, and transcends the genre with impeccably-judged arrangements and production - even the meandering, finger-picked guitar of closing track Portrait Of Astrid (A Nocturne) is enchanting and painterly in its execution.

I Love You Too has a poised sway, with a sharp, Spanish guitar glow contrasting with unhurried pedal steel swoons and barely-there Hammond organ, all decorating Landry's reflective retread on a failed love affair. And the slow-waltz pace, muted trumpet, burnt-out electric guitar and playfully contradictory lyricism in The Refuge Of Your Arms is a delight.

4/5 stars

Gill Landry plays the Americana Music Association Showcase in Hackney on January 28, and The Old Queen's Head, Essex Road, N1 on February 19.

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