The Gothic Cowboy (aka Melvin Litton)
BETWEEN THE WARS
The Rustic Heartworn Highway is Re-Opened
This album arrived after its release date, which normally means it doesn’t even get a play; but …….. there was ‘something’ about the guys name ‘The Gothic Cowboy’ and the sepia tinged CD cover that made me pick it up a couple of times last week; and again on Sunday morning; which was when I weakened.
Now this is going to be a bit of a brave statement; I was totally engrossed straight from opening track Border Blues, a ‘song of our times’ and ……… in …. deep breath ….. sung in the vein of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. Everything from Litton’s weary and grizzled voice through the rusty yet sharp lyrics and story and coming out with a minimal production that makes every note and word as clear as a mountain stream.
There’s a lot to get through here; as it’s a Double Album …… 26 tracks in all; and there isn’t much light to balance the shade of the dark and very dark tales; but if you wanted Pop Music you wouldn’t have bought this anyway; would you?
You can close your eyes and press ‘random’ to find a killer song; Summer Days are Long, with Dan Hermreck’s mandolin and Til Willis’s mournful harmonica complimenting Litton’s tale of constant sorrow; or it may be Cold Ohio City; a ‘talking Blues’ that genuinely will leave you spellbound; and if it’s Caspion & The White Buffalo you will find yourself leaning in towards the speakers so as not to miss a single word of this harrowing historical anecdote set to music.
Just like the songs of Townes and Guy, there’s a real rustic beauty to Yellow Rose Motel and Marijuana Fields; the likes of which most of us never expected to hear again.
…….. and that’s only the first album!
I normally expect Double Albums to be retrospectives or Live Recordings; but as far as I can ascertain these are songs that Melvin Litton has had on the back-burner during the 20 years of his previous career in the Border Band and this has been his first opportunity to dust them off and let the world hear them in all their glory.
The second album opens with the fabulously titled Creek-Bank Ghetto Boys; which if nothing else would make a great t-shirt; but Hell …… it’s powerful Country-Folk song that just may turn your world upside down!
Quite often I receive albums of this ilk where the performer is trying too hard to sound like Van Zandt or even early Dylan; but Melvin Litton just sounds like himself which just happens to sound parallel to what those greats sounded like; back in the day.
I guess Litton plays a lot of Folk Festivals; but to me intimate songs like The Devil’s Daughter, Sunday Morning and especially Indian Land will be best suited to a small club where the audience are packed in and can hear and appreciate every chord change, let alone these exquisite stories.
As I say this is a Double Album made up of 13 songs on each platter; but Litton has a lot to say; and isn’t afraid to let the tape keep rolling, which gives us a couple of opuses too; with Murder of Bob Rose coming in at nigh on ten minutes, and Montana Bound at seven and a half; but if you get that far you will appreciate that these songs need that length to allow the stories to breathe and resonate too.
Gosh; this has been a long (and thoroughly enjoyable) couple of days; but selecting a Favourite Song is nigh on impossible. There’s not a single commercial, catchy tune here …… this is Folk Music at it’s finest; but I suppose Holly ‘n the Drifter or Yellow Rose Hotel from album #1 and Help Me Crossover from #2 are all songs I can point you towards; with Yellow Rose Motel probably shading it as a song I’ve come back to to play on it’s own; so that song is officially the RMHQ Favourite Song on this wonderful Double Album of songs and music that I genuinely never expected to like half as much as I have.
Released November 29th 2019