Delaney Davidson's latest LP takes the embedded grit inside the guitar sound on Tetuzi Akiyama's "13 Routes to the Gates of Hell" and "Don't Forget to Boogie" records out of the realm of abstraction and puts it in the service of sly winks refusing redemption. You don't ask for forgiveness when you don't believe in crime.
"Devil in the Parlour" collects six mainstays of Davidson's live repertoire as a one-man band, and all six were recorded in one take in a studio in Los Angeles; I'd bet that the deal that allowed the native New Zealander to get this record done involved rolling dice under a red light. The tunes are vintage - rearrangements of classics from the 40s, 50s, even the nineteenth-century, along with a couple of originals. Davidson adds his signature layers of drawling howl, knuckled percussion, and definitive strumming with an underbelly of reverb to each song, turning every cut into medicine.
His other records have displayed his songwriting and band-leading skills, but this one finally documents his prowess as a one-man band. Most tracks begin with his knuckles on the body of the guitar, building a simple percussive loop to add layers of guitar and voice over, until the rhythm needs to change and he pounds his guitar again. But don't be misled: his craft isn't built on the complexity of shifting layers: his sound is about turning raw electricity into the hum of instinctual-despair-cum-existential-solace.
Speaking of humming, this version of "In the Pines" (he's recorded others) features humming like his life depended on it: it's scary, it's desperate, it's a roar, it's a cry, it's a melody, it's a rhythm. His very particular vocal sound is amplified by a Green Bullet mic that he holds to his mouth like a CB radio, coiled wire dangling and all. The strings on his guitar have a heavy jangle, like they're so loose they might be ruptured arteries. He gets so much low end out of them I keep imagining the jug from Percy Mayfield's "My Jug and I" when I hear their decay.
Whenever I'm in good company and I've had a couple whiskeys I always wish we were on our way to see Davidson play. Putting this record on and getting up to slowdance with a lover or shimmy with a stranger is a damn fine second option.
Liner notes by the Dead C's Bruce Russell are a fantastic bonus.
Tracklist:A1. I'm Comin Home
A2. Way Down South
A3. In The Pines
B1. So Long
B2. Lost Highway
B3. Windy City