Back To The World
This new one from Australian-based singer/songwriter Jo Meares was recorded across the last two years in Sydney and Melbourne – two different bands contributing to the final album, the Melbourne crew and the Sydney crew.
Meares’ parched and passionate delivery, his whispered reveries, his wistful, weary and wonderful story-songs dominate once again.
It’s as if he’s reached deep into one of the acoustic Springteen albums to spot a kernel of an idea and the extrapolation is the full album – a mood, a subtle magnificence, it all stems from a dark-country heart, a folk-derived introspection.
On this, his latest, there’s a jazzy suppleness to the rhythm section of Dave Milne and Trent McKenzie on the noir-ish Dead Man In The Room, Michael Bridges’ violin giving a Bad Seeds/Dirty Three vibe across Meares’ narrative.
At other points it’s Willy Vlautin I think of, his Richmond Fontaine song-settings could have inspired the opener here, Isabella Rossellini, or the long-lope of Diamond Bay.
I was blown away by Meares’ 2014 album, King of The Crystal Mountain – and where that was widescreen and windswept, this feels like similar moods and feelings conjured in song that are the musical equivalent of Super 8 film footage shot from the window of a moving vehicle. These are strange and beguiling worlds and though Meares plunges deep we’re on the outside looking in, listening in. We’re being granted just enough – we can connect but the mercurial, melancholic tidings are always just outside of our full grasp. That’s as the songwriter wants it. And that’s what keeps this dark-hued country music interesting.
There’s a warmth to all of this too. I know I’m suggesting detachment but that’s not at all the case. The playing, the production, the arrangements – it’s all there for the listener, we’re made to feel welcome, just kept at an arm’s length, and that’s for good measure of mood and music.
Back To The World is another of Meares’ mini-masterpieces. The 10-minute closer, An Old Dog And A Shotgun, would be worth your time alone, would be the album standout, the reason to come here to hear this – but there’s not a single dud track. Once again he’s taken time to create something ‘whole’, a piece, an album that could, in another setting, stand up as film or book, a graphic novel, a macabre ballet.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron