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Songs for a Blue Guitar

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iTunes Review

The Red House Painters' trademark sound of guitars and vocals drowned in ethereal reverb that had comfortably mirrored the legacy of their label (the leading Goth imprint 4AD) had been drastically altered with the band’s fourth album, 1994’s Ocean Beach and further distanced with this follow-up. With an album featuring three cover tunes (the Cars’ “All Mixed Up,” Yes’ “Long Distance Runaround” and 11 minutes of Paul McCartney’s “Silly Love Songs”), plus several extended “classic rock” guitar solos and acoustic tunes with pedal steel, it was to everyone’s benefit that the “band” start fresh. So, essentially a Kozelek solo album with guest musicians including Cracker’s Davey Faragher among the guests, Songs is an impressively expansive collection, beginning with simple acoustic guitar and pedal steel for “Have You Forgotten,” a touching reminiscence of childhood, and branching forth with a delicate duet for the title track that leads into the all-hell-breaks-loose electric cruise of “Make Like Paper.” “Silly Love Songs” may not be immediately recognizable to most purring along in such a lower gear, but “All Mixed Up” is kept intact and achieves a sublime serenity.

Customer Reviews

Here's how to listen to this album:

After midnight. Doing 80 on the backroads of Alabama and Mississippi. Trying to make it back home before you fall asleep.

Hummingbirds, pigeons and doves hover rooftops above

A gorgeous, deeply layered, melancholy gem. Songs span the continuum from the dreamily intimate "Song for a Blue Guitar" to expansive, iconic covers like "All Mixed Up" and "Silly Love Songs." This was my first RHP album, and in my mind it, along with Rollercoaster, best represent that ineffable RHP sound. I agree wholeheartedly with the anonymous iTunes reviewer who said this music was unique in radiating both comfort and sorrow (or words to that effect). This is life music, not just music for depressed shoegazing...although it's good for that too. Curious? Try downloading "Song for a Blue Guitar" or "Priest Alley Song." If you buy the album, you'll make your dollar back by getting "Make Like Paper" and "Silly Love Songs" for free. But really, you might as well just buy the whole album; iTunes is selling it for a ridiculously low price, after all. If you're new to RHP and like this album, I recommend Old Ramon for your next purchase. Mark Kozelek has also released two solo albums available on iTunes (Rock and Roll Singer and What's Next to the Moon), and two albums under the name Sun Kil Moon (Ghosts of the Lost Highway and Tiny Cities). Check 'em out; I don't think you'll be disappointed. Enjoy!

The Good Glow

Just when you'd thought that the dusk of guitar strings, coupled with that deep, melancholic sweetness, had left our planet with Nick Drake's demise, along comes Mark K. The voice of the Red House Painters rejoices and curses, amuses and soothes. This is thinking music; pensive, darkly bright, quiet, emotive, keeps you on the precipice of heartache, and just as you begin to lean into the chasm, a muted sparkle comes along, buffets your wings, and you're soaring in the clearest skies. It is a smile that cracks the sorrow. It is midnight, and late afternoon, velvet and corduroy, and smooth bourbon in a tin cup. Now. Isn't that worth less than eight bucks?


Formed: 1989 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Red House Painters was primarily the vehicle of singer/songwriter Mark Kozelek, an evocative, compelling performer of rare emotional intensity. Like Mark Eitzel of American Music Club, to whose work the Painters were invariably compared and to whom their early success owed a tremendous debt, Kozelek laid his soul bare on record, conjuring harrowingly acute tales of pain, despair, and loss; unlike Eitzel, Nick Drake, and other poets of decay, Kozelek's autobiographical songs walked their tightrope...
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