I have two days left of doing sweet FA*. Kelly and I went for breakfast this morning and I’ve been more or less reclining in my EZ-Boy for the rest of the day so far. We originally had grandiose plans this afternoon to visit a lavender farm somewhere in Niagara-on-the-Lake but, meh, couch and jammies won out in the end. Sometimes youo just gotta roll with the laziness.
However, since I missed out on my core workout yesterday (only the 2nd in the past 61 days) I’m making damn sure that I at least accomplish that today. My mat session therefore is tuned to the perfectly timed 27-minute long mini-album by Ben Nichols, ‘The Last Pale Light In the West‘.
On pretty red vinyl no less.
Okay, I got that out of my system.
Anyway, ‘The Last Pale Light in the West’ represents the the first solo album by Ben Nichols of Lucero with Rick Steff (piano) and Todd Beene (pedal steel) released on Lucero’s label Liberty & Lament and The Rebel Group in 2009. It is a seven-song concept album inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s book ‘Blood Meridian’ with each song based on characters and situations drawn from the novel.
For you ‘Walking Dead‘ fanatics, you’re already been exposed to Ben Nichols as the title track from this album was used as the Governor’s theme (episode “Live Bait”) as he drives alone in his truck while watching Woodbury go up in flames (click HERE). And as powerful a scene as this is, you have to listen to the track the way it was intended as part of the larger picture, i.e. the whole album.
The album as a whole is a well-crafted, Southern-tinged stab at folk-pop. As the frontman and voice for Southern-rock/country-punk scenesters Lucero, Nichols has spent the better part of a decade regaling us with bar ballads of lost opportunities and nagging inhibitions in the key of ‘Born to Run’, but his usually whiskey-soaked vocal delivery is slightly reined in here, allowing for a more empathetic storyteller scowl.
Whether it’s an atmospheric malaise added by an accordion on tracks like ‘Davy Brown‘ and ‘The Judge‘, or the steel guitar providing an authenticity to the old-school western proclamations on the aformentioned title track, the music is astonishingly bereft of gimmickry and feels completely genuine. Its subtle sonic qualities elevate the grander themes of Nichols’s tall tales and make for a truly compelling listen. In fact, it’s hard to pick a single favorite track off this album as of the songs plays off the both the tracks that came before and after it inevitably helping to make that song the incredible piece of music that it is and without those predecessors and successors, any one song is merely…good. ‘The Kid‘ does come pretty close though.
The album’s brevity ultimately leaves one wanting much more, which is both a good and bad thing). As it stands, ‘Last Pale Light…’ is more a small collection of tracks that range from fairly good to excellent than a great album as a whole, but however imperfect, it’s an uncommonly strong feat of folk storytelling.
Perfect for a “zero fucks given” lazy kind of day.
*And wouldn’t ya know it, I came down sick for the first time in, like, a year (go figure!).