The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

22 January 2004

The return of Ken Layne

Technically, it isn't a live album, but Fought Down (Scrub Jay SJ 395), the latest from Ken Layne and the Corvids, sounds like it could be live; there's none of the studious studio sterility that mars so many other contemporary recordings. And that's a boon, since the Corvids might be the best bar band you ever heard, except for the minor details that (1) they probably play better and (2) in your listening room you're probably not surrounded by a bunch of people half in the bag.

Then there's Ken Layne's voice, sort of what you'd get if you transposed Neil Young down a fifth and purged his every last whining overtone, then overlaid him with Tom Waits-level world-weariness. Fought Down tells stories of people who've probably downed a few fifths of their own, and it's a measure of Layne's skill that it's almost impossible to hear these tales without wondering if Layne himself might have left Sacramento on an eastbound freight, or wound up in some broad's Lincoln Town Car, or heard angry voices that not even a case of Two-Buck Chuck can silence. Lesser hands would have taken these raw materials and forged a few minutes of bathos; Ken Layne makes you think, "Hey, I know that poor son of a bitch."

If there's a set of marching orders here, it's in the first verse of "Glitter On":

innovation's so expensive
let's do this the hard way
we can't afford to fake it up right
guess we'll have to mean it

Every one of the ten tracks on Fought Down means it.

Posted at 4:33 AM to Tongue and Groove

TrackBack: 8:31 AM, 9 January 2005
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