Lambchop - Mr. M

An understated kaleidoscope of beautiful arrangements, raw emotion and literate songwriting.

Label: City Slang

Rating: 8

Guided by their talismanic leader Kurt Wagner, the Nashville collective have produced a string of noteworthy records since their inception as Posterchild in the mid-80s. Now on their eleventh long player their latest record is is the dedicated to the memory of long term friend and collaborator Vic Chesnutt who died from an overdose of muscle relaxants on Christmas Day 2009.

From the very first line of opening track ‘If Not I’ll Just Die’ with it’s uncharacteristic profanity and Louis Armstrong aura it’s clear that there is still some fight in the proverbial old dog yet. Lead single ‘Gone Tomorrow’ starts of as a gentle country ballad that evokes images of travelling and rolling hills, fading to near silence before cello, guitar and percussion take the track to an otherworldly place. This experimental spirit is also in evidence on near title track ‘Mr Met’, it’s dream like feel shattered with a jarring shift in pace that leaves you wondering what’s coming next.

Whist the album tackles some weighty themes there are flickers of hope and the occasional twist of humour. This is particularly notable on ‘The Good Life’, a meditation on the temporality of things that sees Wagner appearing to sing in a much deeper register befitting of the subject matter. When he sings with conviction that ‘the good life is wasted on me’ it comes as no surprise to learn that even after his band became famous he still held down his day job laying wooden floors

Although ‘Gar’ drifts into noodling instrumental territory it’s a minor irritation quickly redeemed with the haunting ‘Nice Without Mercy’, a eulogy to a friend departed. Effortlessly poetic and bursting with shared memories of catching fish and taking photos, as the chorus plays out it’s as if he’s beckoning down heaven it’s very self.

Proceedings conclude with the delicate ‘Never My Love’ with Wagner a man content in the knowledge he’s found that special someone after much searching, it’s simple verses punctuated with gentle female harmony and quietly strummed guitar.

‘Mr M’ is a record that owes as much to Sinatra and jazz as it does to the country heritage of hometown Tennessee. An understated kaleidoscope of beautiful arrangements, raw emotion and literate songwriting that is nothing less than moving.