Duke Garwood – Garden of Ashes
If you knew nothing about Duke Garwood and heard this record for the first time without knowing who had created it, it's possible you'd think either you were listening to a slightly more soulful Mark Lanegan or a slightly less doom-stricken Nick Cave.
That's where Duke Garwood lives. He's like a scarecrow, crucified by the stake of Lanegan in his right wrist and Cave in his left. If you listened to a Lanegan record like Whiskey for the Holy Ghost (and you should), you'd know he's seen the bottom of a lot of bottles and gazed blearily into the day, befugged by authentic pain. Garwood, who has recorded with the former Screaming Trees frontman in the past, may well have sat alongside him on a few dozen bar stools and songs like Sonny Boogie on this fine, fine album suggest Garwood might well be the ideal drinking companion for a gloomy gus: 'It's like the sun,' he repeats in a calming fashion over a bluesy trance.
Later, he sings, 'Let us make a deal, double or nothing.' You get the sense that Garwood is the kind of guy who would tell you that glass isn't half empty, but half full. Album opener Coldblooded wouldn't sound out of place on Cave's soundtrack to the movie Hell or High Water, or on Cave's own Murder Ballads for that matter.
But there's more to Duke Garwood than this, too. It might take you a few listens (and the knowledge that he once collaborated with The Orb) but he has a fine way with a mellow groove. Listen to a song like Blue (where the guitar line sounds like a curious bird song repeating and curling back on itself, Garwood's voice twisting around a female backing vocal) and you'll lose yourself in both its beauty and threat.
That same beauty and threat reverberates across the album – there are songs here that feel like the equivalent of sitting up all night by a desert campfire (Sing to the Sky) and there are songs that you imagine could be playing on the radio as a bank robber flees the police (Hard Dreams), songs to accompany love (Move On Softly) and its opposite (Days Gone Old). By the time you hit Coldblooded The Return, you can't help but feel you've been on a journey in the company of someone a little more well-travelled. You've had a time. And the best thing about it is that you can take that journey again any damn time you feel like it.
Listen to: Sing to the Sky, Move on Softly, Coldblooded The Return