Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The Balladeer Hunter
In recent interviews Mike Noga has made it clear that his latest solo effort The Balladeer Hunter need not be considered merely a side project by that drummer from The Drones. It would be easy to brush those kinds of comments off as pure rhetoric or egotism, and as a writer there’s always that twang of apprehension as you give that new record from a musician you admire its first spin. Is this going to suck?, you think. What will I say if it stinks? Thankfully this record shines from the first listen and in all its bleak loveliness does nothing but secure Noga’s song writing abilities as some of the best around.
The opening crisply plucked guitar and stomp box simplicity of the much rotated community radio darling M’Belle sets the landscape of this recording beautifully. The world Noga creates is a dark place and the sparse instrumentation provides the perfect half-cover for the loaded gun in the shadows of a dark alley or small-town heartbreak.
There exists a sliver of light on the record that guides the listener to safety even through the starkest funeral marching of Walk With Me where our sinister protagonist proclaims: Only trouble walks with me and it will stay until I’ve paid/For all the pain inside of you, won’t you come walk with me into the night... Endlessly. There are moments of Dylan-esqe grand country scoundrel-ism A Long Week, desolate Irish balladry Eileen and small reprieve in the strangely Ween-like I Will Have Nothing. The spaces between the chords here give enough of a glimpse of encroaching doom, but the beauty of the individual songs sucks you along blissfully in denial. A record to savour in a warm room on a cold night, The Balladeer Hunter is a wintery gem.