The title track gets the pistons of this train going, rollicking on

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The title track gets the pistons of this train going, rollicking on
And then there is the Master of Acoustic Blues, (the Gatekeeper to Reso-Phonic Guitar Heaven),
Doug Macleod, on his latest recording from Reference Recordings’ Fresh Label, entitled Brand
New Eyes [Fresh FR-703]. Macleod’s recordings on the Audioquest label have for years been cited
as personal audiophile favorites, (including Whose Truth, Whose Lies? [Audioquest 1054] with its
beautiful number, “Norfolk County Line” that has been the apple in the eye of many an audiophile
blues fan). Now we have Macleod’s Brand New Eyes to treasure. How does this guy continue to
churn out such Beauty, concocted from string, wood, breath and blistered fingers? The pairing of
Macleod with recording engineer Glenn Nishida and mastering guru Keith O. Johnson is a stroke of
genius; a moment in the sun. And in this moment everything is illuminated, from Macleod’s dastardly
guitar picking to his “rough or sweet” vocals. Joined on several cuts by his attentive compatriots,
Denny Croy on string bass and Dave Kida on drums, Macleod creates a Deep Ellum Blues train that
cannot be derailed from its musical target to the heart.
The title track gets the pistons of this
train going, rollicking on Macleod’s fast,
staccato guitar and wooden hits, all
wrapped in an optimistic Leap of Faith
ballad. Every hold, tussle and bend is
heard articulate and crisp. “Train of
Change” is another smoker, rolling and
spinning in beautiful, articulate string
bass hits and vocal optimism.
Macleod’s guitar is resplendent and vivid, dancing next to the filigree of
Kida’s singular snare brushes. Keep an ear out too for catching the
acoustic space in which Macleod’s tales are spun; this space is
revealed in its (tactile) splendor on this superb recording. Also, do keep
tabs on Macleod’s foot percussion as well, always a sturdy foundation.
“I Rolled A Nickel” rides that pounding foundation into territory filled with
gnarly guitar holds and long string decays, with Macleod singing both
bitter and whisperingly sweet. That same foot and bass string foundation
also propels Macleod’s darker visions. “Something Dark Is Walking”
contrasts with deep threatening tones, with Macleod exhaling and delivering guitar chords with a sordid combination of emerging heat and lengthy
shadows. “One Eyed Owl” follows suit, with Macleod working over an “El
Trovador Baritone” guitar with contrasting light and heavy hits, all simmering against isolated, decaying cymbals and hand percussion that floats
and mesmerizes in the surrounding air. These compositions are slow
brewing, pungent and complex as smoke on the wind.
Macleod’s formidable skills as a songwriter encompasses both a
comic (and sardonic side), as well as a tenderness that is like a young,
green shoot of grass in the Springtime. He can glisten with irony, firing
off sly lyrics and kissing off anyone who cares to be offended, such as
on his plucky proclamation against garrulous egoists on “The Nature of
the Man” or his fast-talking, (cracker eating) “Zu-Zu Woman.”
He can follow such biting little ditties with the singular beauty of “Some
Old Blues Song” and “Midnight in Memphis” which both contain such
involution and deep blues that they captivate every pore. There is a
directness of feeling and delivery here as fine as you will ever hear,
with Macleod’s guitar flowing forth in full, resonant glory alongside his
passionate and plangent vocals.
This is the stuff of Life, a landscape spun from simple vocal, bass and
guitar prowess that, like in that O’Keefe painting, gives us some “Brand
New Eyes” to see Nature (and in Macleod’s case, our Humanity) in a
new light.
We welcome any suggestions for audiophile recording gems.
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