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Album Reviews Superb earmworms

IAN SINCLAIR reviews albums by Kyle Craft, Brian Fallon, and Red River Dialect

Kyle Craft
Full Circle Nightmare
(Sub Pop)
★★★★

STUMBLING around somewhere between Highway 61 Revisited and Sticky Fingers, the second album from Portland-based US singer-songwriter Kyle Craft is a raw, swaggering burst of old-school rock’n'roll.

The catchy songs come thick and fast and the lyrics are often surreal and intense, like Craft's hero Bob Dylan. With its piano and organ, the barnstorming Exile Rag bowls along much like Dylan’s Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, while Heartbreak Junky employs glorious Creedence Clearwater Revival-style guitar.

There’s also a little Meat Loaf buried deep in there somewhere, along with the ghost of David Bowie, a generous helping of glam-rock attitude, a couple of great ballads and the energy of peak-period Ryan Adams.

Is the record derivative? Definitely. Has the enormously talented Craft bashed out a riotous rock classic? Hell, yes.

An album to fall madly in love with.

Brian Fallon
Sleepwalkers
(Virgin EMI)
★★★★

“I THINK my job, in one sentence, is to carry on the tradition,” New Jersey singer-songwriter Brian Fallon explained recently about this second solo album.

Key texts in this tradition are Bruce Springsteen’s classic 1975 Born To Run record and Jim Steinmen’s rock operas, with all the high drama and overblown theatrics this suggests.

And, like The Boss, Fallon has a knack for killer choruses, memorable lyrics and great song titles (Her Majesty’s Service, My Name Is The Night).

Fans of Fallon’s previous punkish outfit The Gaslight Anthem won’t be disappointed. Working with the producer of 2008 hit album The '59 Sound, he has recaptured the urgency, massive guitar sounds and rousing energy that made the band so popular.

With each song bursting with earworm melodies and emotions dialled up to 11, Fallon sings like his life depends on it.

Barnstorming.

Red River Dialect
Broken Stay Open Sky
(Paradise of Bachelors)
★★★★

THE FOURTH album from Red River Dialect is another triumph for US label Paradise of Bachelors.

Fusing guitars, cello, violin, banjo, piano, dulcimer and drums, the Cornwall-bred, London-based sextet fashion a beguiling and subdued style of folk music, informed by West Country pastoral culture.

Opener Juniper/The View echoes the sound and lyrical phrasing of Mike Scott’s The Waterboys and Celtic folk-rock band Hothouse Flowers. Elsewhere, an almost introverted atmosphere unspools, reminiscent of Nick Drake and Americana artists like Laura Veirs or the earlier work of The Decembrists.

“I was learning how to feel perky and how to ride on the wind — the one that is called lungta in Tibetan,” songwriter and lead singer David Morris, who is also a Buddhist university chaplain, explained about his mood leading up to writing the record.

Confused? Me too. But don’t despair — these mysterious and reflective songs are superb.

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