This review, from last Spring, of Eliot Wilder’s 2013 remixed version of This Lonesome Road (originally from 2011) comes from the Caught in the Carousel website. I’m confused about who the author of this review is. It says it’s written by Alex Green, but below the review the name Paul Gleason appears…?
Anyhow, please check out Eliot Wilder’s music (find his link on my blogroll) and the article I wrote about him on The Beat Patrol. He’s a great artist and deserves success…
Eliot Wilder Goes It Alone
A remixed and rethought album originally recorded in 2011, This Lonesome Road – the prolific Boston-based musician Eliot Wilder’s umpteenth album – is a marvel of intelligent song craft, introspective lyricism, and raw emotion. Wilder’s mastery of dynamics and what seems like every instrument under the sun make him a hidden treasure. But he shouldn’t be, as This Lonesome Road amply proves.
The opening track “From Here to Tucumcari” demonstrates Wilder’s ambition as a musician. It’s one of those tracks – think, say, of Death Cab for Cutie’s “The New Year” or even U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” – that energizes listeners and pulls them into the record with a thrilling use of dynamics. “Tucumcari” begins with moody synth lines and rain sound effects, before keyboards carry you to a lyric-less but catchy vocal chant, which Wilder accompanies with some great guitar. The song simply soars, until Wilder returns to the rain effects with which the track begins. He includes the subtle sound of the thunder to remind you that feelings of happiness – such as those that the chant invokes – inevitably precede a return to sadness.
And this is what This Lonesome Road is really about – dynamic musical shifts within and between songs, as well as dynamic shifts in emotion.
Tracks like “The Curate’s Egg” further exemplify Wilder’s handle on dynamics within a song. The song begins with sparse piano and vocal samples of George W. Bush, of which Max Richter would be proud. But it morphs quickly into a hard rock that’s simultaneously introspective and political. The theme here is regret, and Wilder suggests that both the former president and the listener lie awake at night questioning the decisions they’ve made. The angry tone of Wilder’s vocal deliver, however, transforms the song into a possible indictment of Bush’s past decisions – and possibly his own.
The introspection and sadness on some of the numbers on This Lonesome Road are self-lacerating. Wilder’s very hard on himself in moving acoustic, singer-songwriter numbers like “If You Were Someone Else Then I Might Love You More,” “My Mona Lisa,” and “The Dark Side of Me.” But Wilder never wallows or navel gazes. Take, for example, “Dark Side,” on which he adds female backing vocals and slide guitar (an homage to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon?) to make the song reach out to the listener.
“Live Out Loud,” with its punk-rock beats and bass and guitar riffs, transitions This Lonesome Road away from tracks like “Dark Side.” It’s a fiery blast of energy, with cool guitars, and a terrific noise section. It’s also a much-needed scream of positivity that revisits the record’s central thesis of musical and emotional dynamic shifts.
A nifty country tune, the title track invites the listener to come with Wilder and “wander with [him] down this lonesome road.” “It’s always best to have yourself a friend,” he sings, backed by country accouterments – slide and acoustic guitars figure in the mix, as does a fiddle. Wilder now finds faith in companionship. This song is just as excellent in its optimism as other tracks are in their recognition of the inevitability of human suffering.
On “Lovesick Blues Boy,” Wilder performs a terrific piece of knitting. The synth pattern with which This Lonesome Road begins returns, but this time it leads to a poppy melody that Wilder uses to convey his love for a woman. The song’s lyrics wobble between being self-accusatory and a pure celebration of the existence of unrequited love.
By the time Wilder reaches the album’s closer, “Once More, with Feeling,” – a keyboard driven ballad with harmonies that smack of The Beach Boys – he’s back in the land “Tucumcari,” using music and wordless vocals to express humanity’s ability to feel deeply.
It takes a musician of Wilder’s caliber to convince listeners of their emotional existence, especially in today’s world of disposable pop music. But Wilder’s This Lonesome Road isn’t disposable – it’s essential.