Monday, 21 June 2010

David Karsten Daniels & Fight The Big Bull – I Mean to Live Here Still

This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...

Released on 21st June, through Fat Cat Records

This is the sixth album to bear David Karsten Daniels’ name. And it’s a name that has become synonymous with lazy reviewing words like “underground” and “cult”. He has the air about him of a mysterious and enigmatic yet alluring singer songwriter, born straight from the same mould as Micah P Hinson. And this, of course, is no bad thing.

It would be very easy at this point to make a further lazy reviewing comment about this record sounding like Fleet Foxes as re-imagined by Mumford and Sons and then to go and have a beer. This would not, however, even begin to do justice to what is, at its core, an intriguing and multi-faceted record. It is no understatement to say that there is a bit of almost everything here: Cajun, Balkan, folk… if CSNY had decided to go inter-railing around Europe, it would have ended up sounding a bit like this.

Before getting to the serious discussion of individual tracks, it’s worth mentioning that Fight The Big Bull are a nine-piece ensemble from Virginia. From the sound of this record, they seem to play everything. A quick visit to the photos page on their website seems to add weight to this theory. The band are pictured playing almost every musical instrument known to man, and many of the photos are taken in the kind of club that we all wish we were cool enough to get into.

Listening to this record for the first time, there is one track that instantly leaps out and refuses to go by without mention: the utterly charming Through All the Fates. This song combines a superb rolling guitar track, with some glorious harmonising and some great brass accompaniment. It is by a long chalk, the most instantly hummable track here present.

Other honourable mentions should go to the eventually-bombastic Die and Be Buried. In a parallel universe, this track is the theme song of the 23rd Bond movie, in which James has decided to move to the country and keep some sheep. Starting with a brooding overture, the track seems to break down beyond repair, before crashing back in with a fabulous second act.

Elsewhere, The Funeral Bell is a great piece of folk music, and The Salmon Brook manages to recover from an interminably pointless drum intro to end with two and a half minutes of twinkling instrumental that manages to sound like… well… a salmon brook.

Throughout the ten tracks, this album has moments of brilliance and some generally lovely touches. Although occasionally it verges on getting a bit overly free-form and sometimes risks becoming “noodley”, it always stays on the right side of this very dangerous line, stepping across perhaps once on the eight-minute Each Summer Sound. This is a record that I am sure will find a place in the hearts of anyone who loved the aforementioned Fleet Foxes, but there’s a whole other layer here. The multiple instruments mix the talents of David’s backing band with his own talent for composition and the results are frequently awe-inspiring. Go forth and buy this record, one day you will find yourself with a music snob that you need to impress. And he (or she… probably he) will be impressed. I guarantee this to you.

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