Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I'm In Love With The Doubt

Let's face it. By and large, radio in America sucks, and if you live here I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. In Atlanta, it's especially bad. You'd think in a city of 5 million people, we could have our own KEXP. But no. The closest thing we have is Georgia State's WRAS ("Album 88"), which can be good, but is usually hit or miss and frustratingly inconsistent.

So anyway, here's something that almost never happens. I heard a song on the radio the other day that blew me away and made me immediately seek out the artist. Last Friday, I left work in the middle of the day and to go see my son's kindergarten class play. On my way to his school, I switched over to WRAS because neither of the two sports talk stations were getting it done. It was excellent timing. What I heard was a beautifully understated song that I first thought might be an old Pernice Brothers tune that I had never heard before. I was struck by the plaintive backing music and how it perfectly suited the longing of the narrative. The music was notable as much for what wasn't being played as for what was. The theme of chorus was the line "It's just these beachcomber, beachcomber blues," and the restraint in the playing was perfectly evocative of a lonely journey along some wintry shore.

Turns out the band is Dolorean, who I'd not heard of before, and the song is "Beachcomber Blues," from the band's fantastic new record You Can't Win. Dolorean, I learned, is from Oregon, and "Beachcomber Blues" sounds like how I might imagine a beach in Oregon to feel. I managed to get my hands on the record this weekend, and the rest of it is just as rewarding. Spacious yet reserved, the record is gorgeous and slow-moving and sad, with gentle brushes on the snare drum, delicate guitar fills, and perfect piano accents here and there. It's vaguely folk/alt.countryish, but actually quite classic-sounding, with an obvious tip of the cap to Neil Young.

I read somewhere that the band, led by singer-songwriter Al James, rehearsed the songs on You Can't Win only a few times before committing them to tape. As a result, there is a certain spontaneity that comes through. The musicians really have to be commended for the beautiful lines that they weave throughout these sad, sparse tales. In some ways, Dolorean remind me of the horribly under-appreciated Bellwether. Here's hoping that being under-appreciated is only temporary for this band. Thank you WRAS for pointing these guys out to me. I owe you one.

MP3: Dolorean - "Beachcomber Blues" from You Can't Win
MP3: Dolorean - "In Love With The Doubt" from You Can't Win
Stream You Can't Win