Beyond the pines, behind the velvet drapes of dreams, lies another America, an America lit by the red neon of corruption where beauty is firefly fragile and love is surely doomed. The night mayor is David Lynch and the town crier is Nick Cave. It’s a land where religion is powerful, weird and definitely ‘old time’ and Satan is real. Many of popular cultures most memorable landmarks are situated there and the artists that bring us tales from there are often cherished if from a slightly cautious distance.
TJ Cowgill is another who has access to this other America and under the monicker King Dude has been making a name for himself playing diabolically dark, Americana.
The crashing garage beat of ‘Black Butterfly’ which opens the album isn’t really representative, but second number ‘Deal With The Devil’ has it all; the woozy Angelo Badalamenti vibe, Cowgill‘s cavernous croon and a lyric part murder ballad, part Faustian tragedy.
I had already heard the next track, the single ‘God Won’t Take Me’ and it had begun to worm its way into my soul so repeated listens for this review have only strengthened its grip. It is a bit of a worry though, when the single is immediately by far the strongest tune and has remained so. It is a prime piece of lachrymose, gothic drama and fans of mid period Nick Cave will lap it up, but it’s the only song that effortlessly stays with you when the album is over. The rest of the album, ‘Rosemary’ aside, needs your full attention to be effective. Perhaps because the moods and moves are so familiar to those of us attracted to the dark side that it just comfortably glides over my ears without making a strong impression.
‘Rosemary’ is another keeper, Cowgill‘s bottom-of-the-well baritone lays out the sorry tale of another beautiful junkie and a piano hammers away in a manner QOTSA fans will recognise from ”Songs For The Deaf” – it could easily have been sung by fellow traveller Mark Lanegan. .
‘The Heavy Curtain’ is also beginning to become a favourite, with it’s Portishead-like seedy electronica and a particularly fine vocal performance from Cowgill. Here, as on ‘I Dont Wanna Dream Anymore’ he reminds me of Stuart Staples of Tindersticks – you can almost reach out and touch the nicotine stained, shabby chic upholstery.
By now you’ll have decided whether the lands King Dude surveys is for you, and all you need to do is play it alone in the dark and… play it loud!