Gold Star - Big Blue

by Rob Taylor Rating:7 Release Date:2017-03-24

Bringing to mind the refractory cool of a young Scott Walker, Gold Star aka Marlon Rabenreither’s image on the album cover of Big Blue is in marked contrast to Ryan Adams’s on Heartbreaker, the album Big Blue most resembles. Adams adopts the pose of the self-assured rock star. Both play country-folk and blues as much informed by history as by their innate musicality. Folk music, the Parsons style of refurbished country, power-poppers Big Star and the white soul of Tim Buckley and Arthur Lee. All discernible here. 

Marlon Rabenreither aka Gold Star may occupy much of the same territory as Adams but channels the folk and pop lineage more distinctly. He delivers his vocals with a world weariness. A temperament more of a proper troubadour. You can imagine him playing guitar in 1960s Greenwich Village foretelling and deliberating over the ornery rather than insurgent concerns of young people. On ‘If Ever You’re Lonesome’ he intimates to his lover that he would run to her in need, but then, what if he made her feel blue, or if he felt blue. Where would that leave them ? Answer: like every other couple on every second day, but heck, he makes it sound like such a weighty matter.     

Garnished with wilting pedal steel, and a light 70s jangle, ‘Sonny Blues’ is more L.A pop sunshine than southern troubadour, so the comparisons with Townes Van Zandt in the press releases are misplaced. Perhaps like Sun Ra it’s just a cool name to bandy around. ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘San Francisco Good Times’ are classic examples of the parallel with Adams, both vocally and musically, and here the spirit of Gram Parsons is palpable. 

In ‘Blue Sky to Blue Sky’ Rabenreither shares vocals with an unnamed female harmonist, and the comparisons with Gillian Welsh and David Rawlings, or Emmylou Harris with  John Prine/Gram Parsons/Ryan Adams might be made; sweetness imbuing the vocal, giving it a plaintive mood. A tale of loneliness and escape, the song is stripped of instrumental layers, as ‘broken down’ as our protagonist. On ‘Analisa Knows’ an added keyboard dirge to the omnipresent pedal steel adds gravitas to another pretty folk song. 

If the mood is occasionally uniform, Gold Star’s Big Blue is a sombre treat.

 

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