el capitan Stickeen (CD, £10.25)label: Grass Roots Record Co.
EL CAPITAN's third album Stickeen was written to a one-inch tape machine at Bart Thurber’s House Of Faith studio in Oakland, CA, then hand-mixed down to two-track without the aid of automation or a computer. It’s an album of roots music in its purest form, full of masterful rhythms, tones, performances and emotion. The record starts in a blazing California summer with the stomp-grass sing-along ‘Happy All The Time,’ an ode to the fictional mountain woman named Miss Berryessa whose specialty brew is blackberry moonshine. What follows is a sequence of songs unparalleled in their collective strength. Within, you’re as likely to hear a dreamy, dub-by lullaby as you are a desperate brew of sonic feedback and heavenly harmonies, where words are less about language and more about how fragments of vocalised sound flow into and out of each other. It’s the first, granite truth about Stickeen: these songs — the arrangements, writing and instrumentation — are as solid as they come.
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