Joe Grass – Falcon’s Heart
The website states that Joe does country music by deconstructing it & creating a kaleidoscope of sound around it. It is a propulsive sound, but it isn’t country, or I should say it may have the elements of country that are dipped into a cocktail of surreal musical soundscapes. It’s like when you take a sugar cube & drop it into a flute of champagne. It causes an effervescence but doesn’t necessarily make it sweeter.
Multi-instrumentalist Joe Grass adds a lot of fizz to his musical “Country” to the point where the country dissipates. That’s not to say this music isn’t interesting it’s just that there’s a musical chemical reaction that results in the showcase taking on a different shape. The music is not techno, electronica but the effects that are employed add an other-worldly feeling. “Albatross,” is about s far from country music as one would get but there is a rather cool infusion of sonics to the performance. Making it all the more interesting.
The 10-song Falcon’s Heart (Drops May 26–Simone Records) produced by Joe has its curiosities that make the music frivolous & entertaining but some of the dreamier tunes are not going to appeal to a more traditional audience. Lyrically, Grass maintains a country structure with some gentle shaping of the narrative. “Wormhole,” is one such tune – nice musical effects immersed in deep bellowing sounds & melodic notes. The contrast is compelling.
Obviously, the Montreal artist’s work with some avant-garde artists has rubbed off on his own exponents. Closer to Country will be the non-country titled & poetic “E. Absolute,” which has a beautiful deep-toned vocal from Grass. It provides a hint of just how good Joe Grass could be as a country singer-songwriter.
The reference that Grass has threads of Ry Cooder sewn into Steve Reich influences is pretty accurate & while many would wince at what that possibility would render, it actually works in an eccentric manner on this collection.
The title track “Falcon’s Heart,” has shallow country inflections but the finger-picked acoustic guitar coupled with the avant-garde percussion provides something of a delicacy for most ears. While the voice is whispery it remains compelling. Whether true country aficionados will embrace the scope of this endeavor is to be seen. Bands like Rain Tree Crow have experimented in this manner in the past with mixed results & so has the eccentric Gothic band Dead Can Dance when Brendan Perry & Lisa Gerrard flirted with country music on “American Dreaming.”
“High & Lonesome,” hits the country target dead on with an accessible, delightful arrangement, melody & vocal. This is an ideal voice for Joe Grass.
Highlights – “Albatross,” “Wormhole,” “E. Absolute,” “Falcon’s Heart,” “High & Lonesome,” “Gargoyles,” “Touch the Void” & “Guadalupe.”