Saturday, November 1, 2008

War Elephant Re-Release.....

i started This Mornin' I Am Born Again early this year after discovering the music blogosphere and the various 'Best Albums of 2007' posts that flooded it. My first posts consisted of my own lists of Top 10 Albums as well as Top 10 Songs. It seems only fitting to review your previous year's 'best of' list prior to making the next year's. Aside from improving the writing and aesthetic quality of the posts, i can't say i would make many adjustments. But a year's worth of additional listening is almost certain to change one's opinions of the music ingested.

One album from my '07 list that has remained very near my CD player at all times is my #3 pick, War Elephant. Deer Tick (John McCauley III and band) has recently been signed to Partisan Records and they are re-releasing his superb debut. By the time i first became aware of Deer Tick, the label that originally released the album, Feow Records, was already sold out of the original (on only) pressing. But i picked it up on iTunes and was immediately impressed.

The overall sound of War Elephant can be described as grunge-country with its topped out electric guitars and rough drum beats providing a backdrop for honest, earthy lyrics. John McCauley's growl is surprisingly welcoming in a modern John Prine sort-of way. He occasionally reaches for notes out of his range, but the authenticity in his emotion remains.

The songs that make up the disc are well written, especially for such a young musician (he was 20 at recording), but the most impressive part of the effort are the arrangements. The lead off track Ashamed, for example, begins with a simple verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure; an upbeat drum enters making the listener believe the song is beginning anew - only to come to an abrupt end after another short verse. Following, Art Isn't Real uses a climbing melody mixed with flamenco-style picking and a conservative fiddle riff to create a deceptively hopeful song. John sings "there's gotta be some old recipe. I gotta get drunk, I gotta forget about some things."

Dirty Dishes
is an plodding look back at a failed relationship: "And you cried all night/ 'til you created a stream and it flows forever/ and it's made of dreams that didn't come true/ and I'm sorry there's nothing more /that I can do." John seems hopeless, noting that he killed all the flowers, until he finishes "things could be so much worse." Another look back at love-gone, Diamond Rings 2007, incidentally took the #7 spot on my 'best of' list. Baltimore Blues No. 1 exhibits an expertly picked acoustic intro, augmented with simple electric accompaniments.

On the surface, Townes and Dylan-esque qualities are evident, but somewhere deeper, you'll find a hint of Hank Williams influence, most obvious in the barn-stomping Spend The Night. To round out John's varied sound, the final track has a cabaret-ballad feel a la Frank Sinatra. The organic, meshing sound of the album on the whole is explained by one simple fact: John McCauley played every instrument on it.

Dirty Dishes

The reissue is available for pre-order now and will be shipped for receipt by November 11th.

Pre-order the Limited Edition Vinyl ~ $26.99
"very limited edition of 300 double LP pressings on 140G RED vinyl with expanded LP jacket printing on 20pt board stock. Fourth side laser etching and insert w/ full lyrics."

Pre-order the Basic Vinyl ~ $19.99

Pre-order the Re-issued CD ~ $11.99

Although i'm very excited for War Elephant to receive vinyl immortality, i was hoping the next Deer Tick news on the wire would be that of a follow-up album. We're not completely out of luck, however. Partisan Records says they plan on releasing another disc of "early original Deer Tick songs" in the near future.


  1. ddbird@insightbb.comNovember 2, 2008 at 10:31 AM

    I LOVE this blog. Thanks for all of the wonderful suggestions. Without this blog, i would never have heard of bands like Deer Tick and others of their ilk. Because i can try it, and because i find your taste near flawless, i've purchased FAR more music this year than in the past.

  2. Thanks ddbird.

    Let's hope those behind the recent rash of takedowns hear more from people like you. Besides curing boredom, spreadin' the word on good music is my main goal here.

  3. I second that. Been lovin' your blog and have been impressed with how spot on you are with your selections. Just saw Deer Tick here in Portland with the Felice Brothers last week. Great opening set and great encore with Felice Brothers...."two hands" by TVZ....rescue vocals by yours truely. Crazy crazy times!!!! Thanks Payton!! Keep it up.