Ray Davies – Americana
'I wanna make my home / Where the Buffalo roam,' Ray Davies sings on the title track that opens his first album in nearly a decade and you can’t help but don a goofy smile. Not only is it a voice we’ve grown up on, a voice you greet like an old friend, but he’s backed by The Jayhawks on just about the finest form they’ve attained since 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass. Yes, Americana is almost that good.
'Isn’t it wonderful, marvelous / Utterly surreal / Totally fabulous, fraudulent / Bogus and unreal?' Davies sings on The Deal, a song as caustic as anything Luke Haines has ever conjured. Elsewhere, 'The grey corporations are providing everything we need,' but he can’t help but ask where is the poetry? He’s calling us from the road, telling his kid he misses her so. And through it all, The Jayhawks just make a big beautiful country rock noise.
And that’s not all. There are songs here that recall The Kinks at their best – A Place in Your Heart is as slap-a-smile-on-your-face-charming as anything off The Village Green Preservation Society plus it features a duet from the Jayhawks’ own Karan Grotberg. The point, of course, is to trace a sort of biographical path from the music that formed him, via his memoir (there are spoken word passages, stories of Davies with Alex Chilton, stories of room service that riff on All Day and All of the Night), to the sound he came to make his own.
There are all kinds of styles here, from honkytonk to boogie woogie and folk, pop and rock but it’s when Davies is at his most Davies-like (storytelling in The Deal, sharing the sweet fragility of Life on the Road, reminiscing in the vein of Loudon Wainwright on I’ve Heard That Beat Before) that the album wraps its warm arms around you and squeezes tight. Americana is an album you’ll want to make friends with. If there’s ever been a moment in your life that Ray Davies or The Kinks made better, you’ll find joy here.
Listen to: Americana, I’ve Heard That Beat Before, The Great Highway