Preview Love Rides A Dark Horse by Gill Landry.
Love Rides A Dark Horse by Gill Landry
Townes Van Zandt famously said, “there’s only two kinds of music: the blues and zippety doo-dah.” Gill Landry’s recent release, Love Rides A Dark Horse is most certainly not “zippety doo-dah.” Though Landry describes his writing as blues, this isn’t really a blues album in the accepted sense. Instead, it is a collection of songs that observe the human condition from a very low ebb. The record is aptly titled, whatever Landry was going to call it, the word “dark” is essential. There is no better way to describe his lyrics. Brooding and maudlin also spring to mind. However, it’s not all hopelessness. To quote Landry now, “I try to purge hard times in song.” He says the record is “a map out of darkness”. If you seek deep emotions in music, this is the record for you.
How did Landry get to such a bleak place? Two years ago he had found love and was set to be married but artistically he felt dissatisfied. He left The Old Crow Medicine Show to go solo but soon afterwards he found himself alone in love also. With no marriage and wondering what next musically, he went off to the Washington coast where he wrote most of the songs completing the album on his return to Nashville.
‘Scripted Love’ is the song that sums up the album. Landry muses about how we set ourselves unrealistic expectations that are doomed never to be met. Comparisons with Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen are inevitable, “no-one will ever be enough for your scripted love” he sings, the outcome itself feels inevitable too. The distant trumpet is almost playing ‘Last Post’.
Perhaps the lowest point comes with the sparseness of ‘Bird in a Cage’. The imagery is of being trapped in this unremitting gloom. The pedal steel accompaniment is perfect. ‘Broken Heart & Things We’ll Never Know’ has Landry, quite understandably, wondering about what might have been, “another man will take her hand”. The piano is just perfect. ‘The Only Game in Town’ opens with a lilting pedal steel that gives the song a country feel. The lyrics aren’t any happier though.
There are a couple of songs with a slightly faster tempo; opener ‘Denver Girls’, swirls the listener into the album with its arrangements and ‘Berlin’ puts the pedal steel to a more upbeat purpose but his mood certainly hasn’t lifted. At least in the latter Landry appears to have moved into the acceptance stage.
The final two songs move from introspection to Landry’s relationships in a broader sense. ‘The Real Deal Died’ is about how he thinks about the superficiality of contemporary culture. Not a lot; the mournful harmonica alone makes that clear. In ‘The Woman You Are’ he finds someone who shares similar views.
Love Rides A Dark Horse shows how Gill Landry defies any attempt to be pigeonholed into a musical style. He does far more by bringing the listener deep into his own mind. He shares his troubles because he’s not the only person who’s gone through these emotions and others may feel less alone having listened to him.