Album Review: Gill Landry, ‘Gill Landry’
When you strip away the 21st century folk and bluegrass of Old Crow Medicine Show's prolific career, you're left with a surprisingly robust catalog of indomitable songs that are fierce in their honesty and alive in their vulnerability.
Songs that, regardless of how much the infectious musical arrangements of Old Crow elevate their impact, can stand on their own merit based solely on their lyrical and subtle musical foundations.
As a multi-instrumentalist and songwriting member of Old Crow -- not to mention a member of the Grand Ole Opry -- Gill Landry understands what it means to create those sturdy foundations, and throughout his third album as a solo artist, Landry builds the bedrock for a flawless listening experience.
Focused on his voice -- a brighter croon than Jeff Bridges, though just as staggering -- and understatedly intricate music, the self-titled disc is a journey of sorts, seeking to find understanding in heartache. Through "transcending the more classic type of broken-hearted love song," Landry says he went "searching for a sweet surrender to what is or was, and moving forward with compassion and kindness without harsh judgment to the reasons for this crime or that misstep."
That shouldn't lead you to think this is a jovial record, but rather a real record stacked with incorruptible sincerity and frankness.
For instance, in the span of just one minute and 51 seconds, the opening track, "Funeral in My Heart," painfully examines the loss of a loved one with poetic lyrics like "Everyone is dressed in black / With chrysanthemums and voodoo dolls trying to bring you back / As the lonesome hearse rolls slowly to the graveyard of my mind / Other than that I’m feeling fine" sung on top of pristine instrumentation.
Landry doesn't embark on this soul-searching journey alone; he has help from an impressive cast of characters, including Robert Ellis, Nick Etwell and Odessa Jorgensen of Mumford and Sons. The strongest collaboration, though, comes halfway through the album with Laura Marling on "Take This Body." Clocking in at almost five minutes, it is the longest track on the record ... and the most haunting (though it isn't without hope).
"Take this body, babe, and hold me tight / Give me more than flesh and bone / Take this body, babe, and treat me right / Make me believe we’re not alone," Landry sings on the chorus; he is eventually joined by Marling, making for an absolutely stunning duet.
For 10 tracks, Landry splits opens his heart -- or the hearts of those he's singing about -- and bares his soul for all to see. It's a risky move; after all, he's used to playing in a seven-piece band. On his own, though, Landry's songwriting and honesty are on full display, and that risky move quickly turns into this undeniable certainty: Gill Landry is perfect.