Shane Nicholson: Familiar Ghosts (Liberation)

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Shane Nicholson: You and Your Enemy
Shane Nicholson: Familiar Ghosts (Liberation)

Anyone who heard the exceptional alt.country Rattlin' Bones album by Australians Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson of last year (one of the Best of Elsewhere 2008 albums) -- or better still caught them in concert -- will need no second invitation to this, Nicholson's third solo album.

A number of these often brooding and always literate songs will be familiar from the concert, but here is evidence that Nicholson has a wide palette of lyrical colours, and he can as effortlessly shift from a song about a lover now living in Barcelona to a metaphorical piece entitled God & Elvis about lost souls in America.

Nicholson -- who has a dry wit and can frame a Dylanesque twist in a phrase -- possesses a voice of almost ineffable sadness in places and when married to hard-edged images ("first-time killer with a blood red hand, walked away whistling to a Dixie band") it can be quite unnerving but always compelling.

That voice can also engender sympathy for his subjects ("just pray for the light on her soul, in a summer dress and the winter cold") and with weeping steel guitar or deft finger-picking, banjo and lonesome harmonica (all played by himself) this is an emotionally affecting album.

There are musical references to an older tradition and also to Dylan and Springsteen (in the lyrical approach) but Nicholson -- with or without Chambers -- is a special talent.

 

 

 

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