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Galvanized Yankee

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Album Review

Jay Munly's Galvanized Yankee acts as a compendium of tales, holding a collection of old folk stories dealing with life, death, and God above. The songs primarily consist of spook and gloom, of a sound that's oddly Southern gothic for a guy born in Quebec (and sometime resident of N.Y.C., Austin, and Denver). Images of desolate farmland, of Hollywood ghost towns, of deserted battlefields, filled with corpses and the detritus of war. Such passages as "All around to me seems darkness/tell me comrades, is this death?" and "soon with angels/I'll be marching." A note of interest is that, while Munly went on to join Slim Cessna's Auto Club, this album most sonically resembles the work of David Eugene Edwards of Sixteen Horsepower, a Denver contemporary of Slim Cessna. While both Edwards and Cessna write tunes involving life and death, Sixteen Horsepower always seemed the closer to falling over the edge, as Munly is close to doing so himself on a few select songs. In fact, the first album that Slim Cessna's Auto Club put out after Munly joining shows his darker influence, as the sound of the band is noticeably different that its earlier releases. One can also find ghostly traces of the Violent Femmes' more country-ish tracks, with Munly doing a passable — and inadvertent, one thinks — version of Gordon Gano's vocals. The production is fairly consistent through the album, and lead instrument is always distant, be it guitar, mandolin, or fiddle. The rhythm elements are right in front of you, so this difference gives a sense of seemingly large physical space which augments the "wide-open plains" atmosphere of the songs. "Death Ain't You Got No Shame?" sounds the most like Munly's output with Slim Cessna's Auto Club, while "Marching Along" and "The Why and the Wherefore" make you think of a song out of time, taken from a scrap of paper scrawled with notes and words left over from some pre-20th century war, played with a marching drum and a rather sprongy instrument. Not all of the tracks deal with the subjects of somber existence in such an epic way; "Cluck Old Hen" features a hen who lays eggs for "the railroad men." "Parting Glass — a sad, somber, and beautiful tune, the best on the album, is a heartfelt message of goodbye, Munly's version of "Here Comes a Regular." The last track is a radio ad for Math Made Easy, an instructive video series for your kids, with a Munly voiceover at the very end. Overall, this album illustrates why the work of Jay Thomas Munly, be it on his own or part of a collective, always remains captivating. Recommended.

Galvanized Yankee, Munly
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