Two new local albums celebrate the tried, the real and the new
You know where you are from the start of Joe Flood’s “Hard Time Blues”, as a chirping harmonica cuts a line through an oscillating rhythm of two guitars, bass and janky percussion. “Times have been tough,” Flood sings. “They opened up, sewn me up / I’m still not quite the same / People dying / Missing friends and loved ones / And only life is to blame.” The lyrics are about hardships, but Flood sings with the easy confidence of a seasoned pro. It turns out everything is setup for a chorus that opens into lush territory, and the lyrics suddenly become hopeful.
“But for now the birds are still singing, winter turns to spring / We wake up never knowing what the day will bring us / Although the world like us is full of suffering / If you have a soul, you know you’re part of everything / And just like you try to lose it / Those tough bluesy moments, “Flood sings. It’s a compassionate position, carried by the music, which suggests, in its gentle way, what can being losing those blues is really possible.
Flood was born in Middletown and currently lives in Hamden, but made an astonishing number of stops along the way. He played jazz and blues in the streets of Paris, wrote music with Levon Helm, worked with Blues Traveler, and rubbed shoulders with the musical royalty of New Orleans and Americana. He has a recording career spanning decades, from albums to the 1990s Albert Hotel and Mumbo Gumbo to the years 2015 Songs of the bend of the river, exploring the music of 19th century Middletown-based songwriters Henry Clay Work, Reginald DeKoven. and Edward Barrett – all famous during their lifetime and forgotten today.
All this musical experience weighs on All roads, that Flood officially released recently with a show at Cafe Nine. “I’m in a Hole” overlaps a deep blues straight out of Louisiana to convey a blues that sounds like it could have been written 100 years ago, in the best sense of the word. “Every Man Has a Monkey” swaps electric instruments for violin, accordion, and piano to create a groove that sounds like New Orleans might have sounded before it had electricity. “What’s left?” participates in a slow Cuban feel to create a smoky atmosphere for some of Flood’s most expressive vocals and plays on the album.
The album couldn’t have ended better than with the two country steps “Honky Tonk in My Mind”. “I can’t forget you / but I bet you would never have left me / If only you had met me / Honky tonk in my mind,” Flood sings with good-time verve. By the end of the song, it’s clear that it’s a bait and a switch; with All roads, Flood put us all on his club’s guest list, somewhere between New Haven and New Orleans, and it’s a place you don’t really want to leave.
Where Joe Flood anchors his music in the rich traditions of American music, in his new album Cruelty of the Yaks, New Haven musician Jake Gagne aka Skeleton Yaks is first interested in disorientation. “Say Goodbye (to Rendered Water” begins with a buzzing, breezy sound that could be a machine or a digitally altered whisper, or something else. It stands out against a shimmering electronic landscape and thundering distant bass, a choppy voice) almost incomprehensible.: “Symmetrical, you visit me in my jar / While I’m climbing towards / The house of great regrets of all translators”, sings Gagné. “The birth of Bonk is here! / Did you fear ?”
“Say Goodbye” is just the opening salvo. The next song, “69% Experimentalist”, is built on synths and vocals that crash and clash and move away. “Tears Out of Space” is a straightforward pop song disrupted by fractured sonic explosions before settling into a chilly vibe that feels both deserved and a bit sarcastic, given the tone of the lyrics (“Electrify Home / Magnetize the spine / Simplify my life / You’re stuck in my eye “). Indeed, before the end of the song, there is one last interruption.” Yak’s Skeleton Key “becomes almost ambient.
As Cruelty of the Yaks continues, the soundscape only expands, each song containing change after change in instrumentation, tempo, tone and sound. The collage aspect of the music is reflected in the lyrics, as on “You’re Baby” (“When you’re all alone in the flying code / Little green heart in master mode / Networks of sparks in the access area / It’s a poem, a rising song / A baby song, ”sings Gagné). What brings it all together is an overall tone that is sort of lush and inviting, and at the same time, distant and abstract. It’s music that never lets you find your place. Maybe it makes it easier to get lost in it.