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Album Review

Sometime after the release of 2003's sparse and slightly chilly Luxor, Robyn Hitchcock attended his first Gillian Welch show. Impressed by the duo's rootsy adherence to the organic — two guitars, two voices — he approached the longtime fans — Hitchcock unknowingly signed David Rawlings' guitar at a Boston in-store in 1989 — and exchanged digits. The unlikely partnership came to fruition at Nashville's Woodland Studios a few months later, and in just six days the lovely, intimate, and typically eccentric Spooked was born. Produced by Rawlings and culled from hours of off-the-cuff originals, Dylan songs, and general weirdness, Spooked harks back to his mercurial I Often Dream of Trains period. References to fungus and food abound, but wrapped in the wooly blankets of Rawlings' signature picking and Welch's winsome harmonies, they take on a fireplace warmth that renders them amiably nostalgic rather than blatantly surreal. On the dew-soaked opener, "Television," Rawlings lays down a beautiful descending lead that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the duo's debut, and its juxtaposition with Hitchcock's "bing a bon a bing bong" vocal entrance is jarring, but when the three of them come together mid-song to harmonize, the results are quietly majestic. Much of the record revisits — musically at least — Hitchcock's colorful past. "Everybody Needs Love," with its breathy urgency and electric sitar, sounds like something off of Element of Light, and the lurching "Creeped Out" — featuring Welch on drums — could have been the B-side to 1985's "Brenda's Iron Sledge." This is Hitchcock's most rewarding and creative endeavor since 1993's Egyptian-led Respect, and the fact that Rawlings and Welch are there as eager tools to flesh out his English netherworld makes the fellowship feel even more collaborative. It's a testament to both camps' willingness to try anything — hearing Welch and Rawlings repeating "crackle, crackle, pop" beneath Hitchcock's spoken word sales pitch to extraterrestrials looking to vacation on Earth is a pretty good example — that ultimately succeeds in making Spooked the left-field gem that it is.


Born: 03 March 1953 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Robyn Hitchcock is one of England's most enduring contemporary singer/songwriters and live performers. Despite having been persistently branded as eccentric or quirky for much of his career, Hitchcock has continued to develop his whimsical repertoire, deepen his surreal catalog, and expand his devoted audience beyond the boundaries of cult stature. He is among alternative rock's father figures and is the closest thing the genre has to a Bob Dylan (not coincidentally his biggest inspiration). Starting...
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