Take a pinch of the shuttered French Quarter, a dash of shack distilled brew, mix it with the alleyways of Les Halles, throw in equal measures of wrong side of the tracks and whiskey driven night sweats. Fire it up with songs of loss, of dashed dreams, of devils in dresses and a twist of bitters. Shake it. Bottle it. And sell it out of an old battered cardboard suitcase. These are the ingredients of Gill Landry's debut album. The songs veer from the rural to ruined streets, from the bottle to the graveyard, from a murder of ravens to hymns. These songs read like a book…a collection of stories, of narratives charting the restless wanderings of a itinerant musician. These are not songs about Main Street. These are way back-an alternative soundtrack to the American nightmare. Southern gothic meets Noir.
Years ago, Gill Landry began performing as a busker on the streets of New Orleans, a town that knows a thing or two about decadence. He took the name Frank Lemon and created the Kitchen Syncopators, inspired by the old country blues, jazz and songster music of the 20's and 30's he was hearing around New Orleans. More recently, he's played banjo and steel guitar for the Old Crow Medicine Show, but the music he's created for The Ballad Of Lawless Soirez has a steamy, almost sinister vibe all its own, a resonance at once timeless and timely, the lonely sound of solitary footsteps scuffing down a deserted midnight street. Landry's gruff, weary vocals, sharp lyrics, indigo melodies and understated fretwork give every one of these sharply etched vignettes its own unique character.
“This is a collection of songs written on the fly,” Landry explains. “They take place in squalid bars on Decatur Street, train yards in Paris, flooded graveyards in Erath, Louisiana, cars going 80 down Highway 90, from the gutter to a lover's bedroom. They're about love and love lost in a world gone wrong, people caught in a ceaseless circle of time: broke, hungry, worn out and wasted, with no easy outs, only narrow escapes and blind luck to fall back on.”
The Ballad Of Lawless Soirez was recorded in Portland, Oregon with producer Nick Jaina, who brought in musicians from the local folk, indie, rock and classical music scene to add color and depth to Landry's hallucinatory travelogues. The overall feel may be downbeat, but shards of dark sunshine strike the surface to set off exhilarating musical sparks. “Poor Boy” is a swampy folk blues, with twanging, feedback drenched electric guitars dancing arm-in-arm with a baleful whispering organ and primitive, mountain violin. Landry's vocal has an understated power that makes the tune sound even more desolate.
“Dixie” is a drinking song named for a famous New Orleans brew, a mournful dirge driven by minimal guitar, mandolin and violin. It doesn't romanticize the feeling of the morning after. Landry reflects, “I wrote this the day after Mardi Gras as an homage to the years I played music on Royal Street with my friends. Night time we'd find ourselves drinking Dixie outside some dive, standing in the puke, piss, horseshit and confetti that is the less glamorous side of the French Quarter, depending which side your looking at it from.”
“Lawless Soirez” bounces along to the blare of Mariachi horns and the preternatural sound of the musical saw. It's a surreal excursion into the mind of an exhausted road warrior as tawdry and hopeful as a Saturday night in a border town. “Mexico” delivers an impressionistic, disjointed lyric with an asymmetrical rhythm, wailing clarinet and funereal guitar. “Coal Black Heaven” comes from Hell's cocktail lounge, a ditty that celebrates the coming apocalypse with a thrilling jumble of confused images, the voice of one crying in the wilderness. A ghostly Fender Rhodes floats over a wash of twangy guitars and a mysterious viola while Landry prays for a salvation he doubts will come.
When the Syncopators parted ways, Landry joined the Old Crow Medicine Show on banjo and steel guitar, filling in for Critter Fuqua. His association with OCMS brought him to the attention of Nettwerk Records where his impressive demos led to The Ballad Of Lawless Soirez , his debut as a solo artist. He'll be touring throughout 2007 to support the album.