- by Rob Taylor Release Date:2017-02-17 Label: Self Released
Kevin Orton, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist counts Townes Van Zandt as a profound formative influence on his music. Orton spent a few years living in El Paso in Texas which explains at least the consolidation of this influence, and the influence of old folk/blues like Leadbelly, Robert Johnson and maybe even Texan, Lightnin’ Hopkins. He also immersed himself in the Harry Smith Folk Anthology and the works of the great American troubadours, Gene Clark and Fred Neil, amongst other songwriting luminaries. As a boy, he listened to songs of desperation, deprivation and despair - Hank Williams Snr and Hillbilly records; heartland records exposing the plight of the American working class, and those dealt poor cards by reason of heritage.
Less enamored of the hipster alt-country scene, Orton’s The Maledictions remain in the purview of folk and outlaw country, broadly speaking, with an authenticity coming from a thoughtful understanding of the music often called ‘Old Weird Americana’. He occupies a more modern time-line in the character of the music he now writes, something more like the lineage from Cash to Cave and onwards to Willard Grant Conspiracy and Handsome Family, with the brimstone fierceness of 16 Horsepower or Lift to Experience.
Unlike those last two referenced bands, the religious imagery in Orton’s lyrics are for dramatic effect rather than cathartic withdrawal, first testament consequences triggered by self-fulfilled prophesy, rather than destinies controlled by a higher power. If it’s cited as ‘all part of God’s plan’ as he mournfully doles on ‘Shiver’, its a personal tragedy brought on by dint of circumstance, or a confluence of events, rather than God’s plan.
‘Shiver’ and ‘Don’t You Grieve’ are staunchly fatalistic pieces, highlighting fate as something more to do with luck and less to do with justice. On ‘Don’t You Grieve’ the acoustic framework is hauntingly augmented by the recessed female vocals of Suzanne Kaiser and Erin Moon, Orton’s vocals preaching the secular gospel with authoritative inflection, never getting overly histrionic in the manner that Nick Cave occasionally does.
The influence of Van Zandt is less obvious, although Van Zandt’s brutal, self effacing analysis and romantic daydreaming were contraindicated by his self destructive relationships. A beautiful soul with a destructive heart. The very themes that [perhaps] attract Orton.
Quite brilliant in the places mentioned, and otherwise compelling, Bury Me Sweet Ghost is testament to the fact that the music industry is not a meritocracy. The Maledictions should be better known.