It takes a certain kind of artist to wear his heart on his album sleeves without coming across as a lovelorn desperado rambling about a lovey-dovey past that flew the coop. But Los Angeles-based Clyde Wrenn isn't about to simplify affairs of the heart to mere clichés. The Blue Cliff Record, Wrenn's fourth album, is an audio book narrated through song.
"The longest, sweetest brew was getting used to you/And now the wicked trade is to be damaged and afraid/And so I'll drink myself to silence," Wrenn declares in "Lighted Life," in which south-of-the-border brass is fused with an upbeat steel-string serenade. "Sawdust in the Mash" transports listeners somewhere between the Blue Ridge Mountains and an East Village coffeehouse where Jeff Buckley's ghost still lingers. Many of Wrenn's songs seem to echo those of the musical martyr, almost as if a higher power dealt the two the same songwriting card. The presence of banjo, violin, and slide guitar on the album are indicators of Wrenn's Virginia upbringing, as well as what Americana should strive to sound like with tracks such as "The Someday Song" and "Anjali." Wrenn's overtones, which vary from overcast skies to rain-drenched downpour, are magnified in the Pink Floyd-laced "Liberty," where a love-stranded, vengeful Wrenn manages to make the line "When my day came for slaughter, she bled me like a pig" sound pretty. Toward album's end, "The Promise" launches into a jam that's both structured and free-flowing. Michael Minori's bass weaves intricate lines around Chris Kirshbaum's drum rolls as ivories tickle and trickle up an upbeat path that contrasts Wrenn's downward spiritual spiral on The Blue Cliff Record. This disc is a prime example of how one man's misery can be another's delight
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