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The Ballad of Lawless Soirez

Gill Landry

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Album Review

In lesser hands, Gill Landry's tableaus would come off contrived; his meticulously depicted portraits of the underside, unfulfilled, undesired, and unworthy would be busted as bogus. But Landry's too sharp a storyteller, too tuned-in a craftsman, too real, to find himself on the wrong side of suspicion. Like Tom Waits, John Prine, Steve Earle, and recent-years Dylan, Landry is down-to-business believable. His songs carry their own persona, and though they may be creepy and otherworldly at times and nasty and grubby at others, they're familiar while remaining at arm's length. Just as you know the stark, dark, sleek B&W abandoned pulp-noir street of the CD cover, even if you've never been unlucky enough to find yourself there, you've run into the soused slobs of "Dixie" and the sorry-ass denizen of "Ugly Town" and the dark clouds of "Mutiny" and the "graveyard eyes" of "Desiree." You may not want Landry's characters over for dinner, but you recognize them when you see them. When Landry tags the subject of "Gasoline Legs" as having "nothing to lose/Poisoned with a vision/Back turned to the ocean/Sleeping in the arms of hurricanes," his words, though hardly translucent, are clear and picturesque nonetheless. He's never a waster of images, nor of sounds: the only embellishments he chooses are the ones he needs. With its mariachi horns and mournful violins and time-warp clarinet, the twangy guitars and understated organ, The Ballad of Lawless Soirez creates its own world, somewhere between "the shoulders of highways," the "twisted streets" of Paris, and the great "loneliness in the middle of nowhere." Landry is schooled and immersed in the great Americana musical traditions and he wears them well, his voice just labored enough to ensure he's been there and back and just homey enough to make you want to walk his lonely avenues.

The Ballad of Lawless Soirez, Gill Landry
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