Preview Stripped Down, Gussied Up by Pierce Edens.
Stripped Down, Gussied Up by Pierce Edens
Old homes harbor secrets to be discovered during a renovation—a leaking roof or gleaming oak floors hidden under faded shag carpeting. Pierce Edens’ new album, Stripped Down; Gussied Up, reveals both beauty and darkness in lean and fiery tunes that explore longing, loneliness, anger and love.
The album, which crackles with energy and passion, represents a move away from the Appalachian ensemble sound of Pierce Edens and the Dirty Work toward a more sculpted sound. With guitarist Kevin Reese, the singer-songwriter recorded the songs in his childhood home, which was emptied and renovated into a recording studio.
The spare and taut tunes on this album draw upon folk, blues and rock. The accompaniment comes mainly from two guitars, along with a few flourishes from a mandolin, some multi-tracked voices and an occasional hand clap or drum beat. That’s the stripped down part of the title. But close listening reveals the “gussied up” nature of the work, subtle dashes of synthesizer and artful swipes of noise—manicured feedback, if you will—to set the mood and provide polish.
The album opens with "Sirens," a song in which Edens offers up what sounds like a statement of purpose for his work chasing magic in the making of music.
See cause I heard it once / It was just a song on the wind / And I been chasing it round ever since then / And here I go again
The lyric, delivered with an ache of longing, draws a sense of inspirational power from a driving acoustic guitar supported by a simple drum beat and long-sustaining, fuzz-tinged electric guitar.
That hopeful and determined tone turns quickly to darker terrain. In “The Bonfire,” a spurned boyfriend tells the tale of romance that ends with the narrator torching his lover’s home. “The Bells of Marshall” offers up a wistful Edens wondering about the purpose of life. And “Further Down” describes the drag of depression in vivid language that demonstrates his poetic sensibilities.
One of the highlights of the album is “Body,” a particularly fierce update on the Delta blues that relates the dread and fascination of seeing a dead body in the river.
There a body in the river / And the rain coming down / Body done drown in that river / There a body in the river / And the rain coming down / Somebody gotta go and get it
Edens’s voice ranges from a growl, to a holler, to a scream. Distorted slide guitar, kept on a tight leash, stops just short of verging into squeals. It’s the kind of tune that demands full volume.
The album closes with “It’s Alright, I’m Still Wrong,” which offers a note of hope and love, though even that ray of sunshine is viewed through dark glasses:
The only thing I know with any certainty / Is everything I thought I knew / everything I thought I knew / everything I thought I knew / before you / was wrong
This is an album of serious, finely crafted songs that ring with passion and are performed with complete conviction. It may sound sparse and stripped down, but it’s an effect that has been achieved with a great deal of artistry.