D. Charles Speer
Some Forgotten Country
Sound @ One
he guitar always stays in tune when you're gettin' shitfaced in the kitchen; No-Neck Blues Band member D. Charles Speer and crew's Some Forgotten Country holds fast to like sentiment, lumbering along with tradition even as they follow instinctively away from it, leaving nothing for regret as Speer steers the ensemble through an ecstatic marriage of Appalachia luster and convex psychedelia.
Some songs hearken back to the bucolic ghosts that haunted Harry Smith's Anthology; others subscribe to the sort of laconic tavern boogie typified by the Flying Burrito Brothers or Kris Kristofferson's early output. Admittedly, this does the music a great disservice, as each piece acts and rests a separate part of a larger assemblage. Some—"Tombstone Every Mile," "There Stands the Glass," and "Stingray Leather"—canter lazily along; worn tired by the sun and shaken and alternately stirred from a steady and fiery whiskey nip, confident in wander as tracks left behind snake slowly together, comprising a fortunate calculus that serves easily to connect Speer's work with the "roots music" that precedes him.
Speer's plastic baritone comes up well deep, washes over weary picking and ad hoc percussion, words drawled and stretched over one another, happily confused and left to their own stubborn syntactical tangles. When Speer isn't serenading those that build the bits of song around him, he's eulogizing persistent specters. "House of Gold" gathers round the gospel: honking noises joyful and exuberant in horns dusty and ossified, wrapped in the 78's metastasizing static as a funeral shroud, an avatar welcomed waking and howling into a noisy new world. Speer's voice and strings work astonishingly well, gathering authenticity as hands squeeze summer-ripened berries from their bushes.
What's brought to the creel is plentiful—its effect slipping past the song's meager two minutes, ten seconds; wood and wire and voice vegetal and rotting, forgotten in their wicker well, decaying in bumpy black slicks of stench. Other pieces, such as "The Janissaries," cloak their selves in a playful and opaque mysticism, defiantly taciturn as guitars resort to rambling tongues: argument in taut corner, their conclusive absurdity the big sky built overhead; an apex-less azure roof stretched from end to end.
When added to the disparate mix of the No-Neck Blues Band, Speer's strings build able receptacles for his band mates to fill. He often guides their compartmentalization; other times the band falls into the tranced selflessness that lends the music a sui generis quality—caused of its self and coming in and out of being on its own goddamned terms. With Some Forgotten Country, Speer finds comfort in nearly concrete composition, working rudder-like with the rest of the ensemble. "If it sounds like a country song that's because it is a country song," said Kristofferson when he famously introduced "Me & Bobby McGee" on his first recording. The same holds for the entirety of Some Forgotten Country—and that ain't some sort of tedious tautological parlor trick.
Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin
Reviewed on: 2007-08-31