"There's a right way and a wrong way to do everything."
You ever hear some grizzled codger with six teeth say that before falling on his face in the damp sawdust of a decades-old gin mill? You ever fight off the urge to kick those few remaining teeth down his throat – hey, he just dissed you in front of your best girl – fight it off long enough to really consider the wisdom lurking in that geezer's words?
I'm figuring Chris Black fought off that urge long enough.
I'm figuring Chris Black fought off that urge long enough to decide that, when he released his new album of "crashing, swooning music for piano, drums, and percussion," he was going to do it the right way.
How else to explain the ridiculous bounty of sound and sight and live performance that is his Drunk at the Funeral?
It's not just a CD – unless you want it to be.
It's not just a collection of prints of the charcoal drawings illustrating each song and a CD – unless you want it to be.
It's not just a handbound booklet of piano sheet-music from the album and a CD – unless you want it to be.
It's not – oh, you get the idea. You get that you can buy a five-dollar download of the entire album or you can work your way up, incrementally, until you're inserting your budget's rusty key into a lock that leads to the beautifully handmade and silkscreened wooden box containing all those things mentioned above. It's a work of art – you get it, you get it.
But, anyway, fuck that: You want to hear this stuff live, right?
You want to hear Chris Black and The Golden Arm Trio perform parts of the album at the Dive Bar this coming Monday before you even think about any handcrafted, letter-pressed, exotically finished, goddam –
Oh, look: That's exactly what's happening: A live performance, as Graham Reynolds' occasional Workshop Series returns to that sweet watering hole on Guadalupe, with Adam Bryan conjuring perfect cocktails to complement the sonic legerdemain that Black and his talented friends will be rocking the room with.
But let me tell you about the album, too.
Just a little, friend, because it's almost last call.
Let me tell you about this "crashing, swooning music," as the artist himself describes it. That's exactly what it is, but that description doesn't suggest the fierce barrelhouse complexity many parts of the whole achieve. The title track, "Drunk at the Funeral," it's like a soundtrack for when some grieving rummy's gonna topple into the casket with the deceased unless his friends keep him upright until the paternoster's over and the worms are reaching for their bibs. And, Jesus, who wouldn't love to see whatever silent film Black imagines his "Buster Keaton" composition is accompanying, because maybe there's a building on fire or a runaway Model T or six elephants escaped from the zoo, but old Stone Face is working the slapstick physicality like his life depends on it and Black's keyboard fingers are matching him feint for feint, fall for fall, finesse for finesse. And, later, when he's "Floating Up the Hill," Black's vocals are as full of ethereal yearning as the ghost of whoever he seems to have murdered in a drunken rage the night before.
It's not just coincidence that this thing's entangled with the Graham Reynolds Workshop Series on Monday. Hell, Reynolds recorded the album back in 2011, and he and fellow Golden Armers Jeremy Bruch and Utah Hamrick add their own remarkable powers to a few of the album's deeper tracks. The whole project's a percussive, crashing, swooning, heartbreaker of music – the sort of sounds that can serve as a bulwark against the steady advance of time, until that dark and inevitable night when some sad sonofabitch is drunk at your funeral.
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