this still exists as my favourite, closest-to-heart release by dave pajo (in parallel with three in the audio tour diary series).
not every song can stand on its own two feet. that is of no consequence. as the art of making an album, this is one of the strongest. while there are some standout songs, such as the first three (over jordan, beloved woman and roses in the snow), the whole set of stories (somewhat interlinked) make more sense than the parts alone. that probably stands for anything to be fair.
but what he managed as an otherwise well-known (and perhaps the best) guitarist in the 1990s is remarkable – to be an independent singer and songwriter of such strength. in spite of some bizarre steps – obvious and less so – none result in plummeting off a cliff.
for example, there are scarce any more awkward moments in the collection than when he sings; there was something like a wall between us that stopped your going down on my penis – when that same song, sorrow reigns, ends so simply and frankly, thus: you didn’t love me the way i loved you. the beauty of this song is that it represents a fully exposed protagonist, using language that is normal for any conversation. that could so easily not work – and some might argue whether this does. but in context – yes, context – it’s a spectacular moment.
it is also mostly enhanced by the instrumentals. the best is krusty, a delightfully simple guitar refrain initially backed by the ambient sound of the simpsons episode, i love lisa (one of the best); perhaps performed in a kitchen like the one in which dave appears on the back cover of lost blues and other songs with will oldham (who also performs on this). the background sounds are clear, yet not the point. though i have loved him ever since hearing him laugh so warmly as the guitar fades out and the sound of the characters re-emerge. hey frosty, ya want some snow, man?!
i spoke recently of cass mccombs giving gifts in the music he writes, constantly. i feel in some ways that he took up where dave pajo left off. when you can sit in ostensible darkness (the space illuminated only with a few coloured leds) and truly listen to every sound, every positive and negative inflection, it’s like being genuinely stunned by the beauty every time.
finally seeing the painted cover of whatever, mortal, which is a portrait of the man with a dog, also confirmed that he was indeed the same on the back sleeve of lost blues (the tattoo on his right arm gave it away).
you’re a phenomenal bloke, dave.
also, this is mysterious reverence for you: