John McGurgan, 'Gipsy Street'
The second John McGurgan album is name-checking Willy Wonka, Billie Holiday and Henry Fonda. He's playing his acoustic guitar, he's singing in a sublime, jazzy way and just to confound the listener a bit more, he takes the Hank Williams song, 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry' and he changes the Hillbilly lament into a sparse meditation.
While his debut album was a beautiful thing, it was also a little too hazy. The songs were less prolific than the tone of the record, which carried the listener in a kind of quiet rapture. The new recordings are more focussed and the combination of John with his brother Joseph on double bass happily recalls the work of John Martyn and Danny Thompson on the legendary 'Solid Air'.
'Jenny And Her Vega Machine' sings about the golden ticket to the chocolate factory and the frustrations of an artist in a business-obsessed world. 'Twelve Angry Men' is an angry discourse on religious intolerance while 'Standards' is a wisp of a song, virtually whispered, like one of those great old Chet Baker vocals. The song itself seems to deal with the hell of a singer-songwriter, constantly urged to play safe cover versions.
John signs off with 'Empty Mind', an attempt to clear the mind of the static and stress. He doesn't quite get there, but his discontent is probably our gain, and the friction that will deliver many other captivating tunes.
Gipsy Street (White Label)