Stereotypes are difficult things to get past. Take Nashville, for example. What with an entire series (as seen on E4) dedicated to the town, and centred on the world-famous country music scene that calls the place home, whenever someone is introduced as being ‘from Nashville’, you can’t help but jump to some conclusions about what they will sound like. In the case of Rayland Baxter, though, those preconceptions couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s difficult to know exactly where to place the chap behind Imaginary Man , one of the finest records to have arrived in the office this year. He’s certainly not country, mind. Heartfelt lyricism and gentile acoustic guitars pervade Rugged Lovers , which showcases the artist at his most vulnerable. But then distorted, droning guitars and a chant-like rhythmic quality immediately take us down darker avenues on Young Man , which immediately follows and delivers a stylistic jolt to the system that’s jarring but also thoroughly welcome.
Elsewhere, and we have the Paul Simon-esque Mr. Rodriguez , a stadium-sized yet pared back workout that’s all about the plodding, upbeat drums and a single, occasional guitar hook. Meanwhile, Freakin’ Me Out is a wonderful ode to 1960s folk rock that doubles up as an alt-guitar anthem for the modern day world citizen. Those who have experienced the magic and terror of what it means to be alive. And closing number Lady In The Desert is a tearjerking effort of heartfelt electric six strings and echoed vocals, and very little else, that has such a huge impact it’s impossible not to be affected by it. A remarkable work from a truly remarkable talent, if we had an award for record of the month then Baxter would surely be taking it home- walking away, trophy in hand, into some faded polaroid sunset.
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