A sad man with a guitar continues to channel his inner self-serious balladeer with tunes shot through the lens of late (but good) era Bob Dylan and the constancy of Nick Cave's spidery, touching songs. This guy's name is actually Zachary Cale and Duskland is his label debut, though his folkloric Americana stays its course.
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Twang makes everything seem sadder. It’s basically a way of cheating your way into meaning. And I dig that; so does Zachary Cale, who washes out his opening slice of Americana on ‘Dusklands’ with a heavy dose of the stuff. It’s a statement of intent for his record, which channels both blockbuster production values and an appreciation for old-school folk music, hoping that one or the other will lend him some wistfulness. If he gets compared to Bob Dylan, though, it ain’t for the songs; it’s just that he broodingly gurgles his words with as much disinterest in being listened to.
With riffs often comprised of a couple of notes bumping into each other and drums playing with the quiet drama of a person standing on an escalator, this isn’t world-beating; rather, it’s a settled, sombre kind of country rock you might find yourself at home with as a fan of Barzin or ‘A Ghost Is Born’-era Wilco. The deal-breaker, though, is his production values: they emblaze the record with the kind of sparkle Coldplay put their sad songs to the test with on ‘Ghost Stories’. Often the songs are comprised of too little to match up to the grandiose feeling Cale has exposed them to, but sometimes the mix of bold production and small gestures (such as the fumbling acoustic guitar and light percussive shuffle of “I Left The Old Cell”) leaves Cale sounding wonderfully humble in a big American landscape -- which, by the way, sounds good.
This record has the hallmarks of your folk standard: a lonely, late evening record with gorgeous flourishes, it sounds like The Tallest Man On Earth with a slowed heartbeat. The arrangements and production are both pitch perfect, and while Cale hasn’t fertilised new ground in his genre, he’s certainly kept it sounding real nice.
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