ALBUM REVIEW
Words: Dominic Valvona


Monolith Cocktail - Spain 'Carolina'

Spain   ‘Carolina’
Released  by  Glitterhouse  Records  3rd  June  2016

With a poignant prompt, Carolina is the first album by Josh Haden’s musical project Spain since the death of his father Charlie in 2014. Amongst the most renowned and celebrated jazz bassists of the last century, working with such major heavyweights as Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman, the late Charlie was for obvious reasons a handy mentor to his son, contributing throughout with advice and even playing on the records. Tribute would be too strong a word, instead imbued by and referenced in a number of themes, Charlie’s spirit is omnipresent throughout.

It has however given Josh pause for thought; solace and reflection the album’s key subjects. Though the very nature of the ‘slowcore’ music Josh, alongside other innovators of the genre such as Low and Willard Grant Conspiracy, has become renowned for is based on if not constantly paying homage to the great Americana songbook of the past two hundred years. Coming almost full circle, the literally titans of the 1929 great depression, both in fiction and reportage, chime with the events of 2008. Even when the protagonist of a beautifully descriptive lament eulogies an American victory in the 1777 campaign for independence on ‘Battle Of Saratoga’, Josh has his mind on the present: augurs for the future, compelled by events in the past.

 

Entrenched in not just the history of the expansive, pioneer spirit America but in its music too, the opening alt-country swoon ‘Tennessee’ absorbs the ghosts of Nashville and Memphis. A grand vista indeed that captures the American state in a tale of loss and escape – the protagonist losing land, trapped by history itself – ‘Tennessee’ has a plaintive quality of resignation. No less steeped in myth, ‘Apologies’ moves the action to Beverly Hills, Josh joined by a female counterpoint vocal on the repeating, “There was a witness” refrain, sings almost softly as though floating through or above the unfolding events.

Josh goes onto evoke both an air of The Band’s Rick Danko on both the stirring ballads ‘Lorelei’ and ‘Starry Night’, and a heavier alternative rock and blues, often reminiscent of a cowboy twanging Pearl Jam, tone on ‘For You’.

Life on the homestead, the American War of Independence, Steinbeck’s visions of the great depression, mining disasters and William Faulkner’s short sentence encapsulation of a time and events are woven into both Josh’s formative years, growing up in Malibu, and a more contemporary setting to create a deeply moving album.



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