Vinyl LP, Cassette
David Nance’s songs chug towards ever receding horizons, a stinging lick of blues flaring from hazy, hypnotic grooves. Here supported by Mowed Sound—that’s essentially everybody but Rosali from the Rosali live band—he makes shaggy, meandering music, wreathed in smoke and melancholy and rooted in a heartland heaviness. The lodestar, as always, is Neil Young, but the feedback-splintering, electrified Zuma-era Young recedes on this disc, giving way to the twangier, more down-home Shakey. You can hear a fair bit of the Band, too, especially on rousing “Mock the Hours,” which tips and careens and rampages without diverging from the strongest, most hummable melody on the disc.
Nance has never been shy about his influences, but he’s also not bound to them: see his loose, distortion-crusted homages to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Doug Sahm, and most recently the Cure. This self-titled album draws on the same basic ingredients, a mix of classic rock, country, blues, and punk. However, the elements got a long, slow cooking during Mowed Sounds’s extensive tour with Rosali. Playing together, night after night, with James Schroeder on guitar, Kevin Donohue on drums, and Nance himself on guitar and sometimes bass, seems to have solidified this outfit’s sound. Earlier albums like Staunch Honey and Peaced and Slightly Pulverized feel like Nance rooting around in his record collection; this one sounds more like an integrated, authentic group endeavor.
Consider, for instance, how “Cut It Off,” slouches and cavorts, an effortless synchrony rattling percussion, sharp, slantwise riffing, and Nance’s drawled vocals. It’s loose enough to give in the joints, but tight enough to hammer its point home. It dissolves into whispers and whistles and pianissimo boogie at the end without ever losing its shape or direction. Later, even brief, tossed-off “Molly’s Loop” seems charged with intention, an Afro-blues hallucination of group chant and box drums that shifts the boundaries of what Mowed Sound can do.
A lot of these cuts move restlessly on skittering percussion and clipped, rhythmic guitar play, but the slower ones are worth a look, too. “Tumbleweed,” with its winding flute and soft, shadowy harmonies (that’s Omaha fixture Pearl Lovejoy Boyd singing back-up) is particularly lovely. “I wanna leave this town as bad as you,” croon Nance and Boyd in the chorus. But while the lyrics convey dissatisfaction, the music celebrates a kind of heartland country-folk that must feel like home to Nance. He’s been away for a while now, gotten some perspective and practice in taming the sounds that made him who he is, and this album is all the more powerful for it.