Wednesday, November 16, 2011

REVIEW: Colin Bugbee -- Halle EP

I've sort of grown skeptical, if not weary, of the unaccompanied "man/guitar singer-songwriter" convention lately. It's not that it's a played out form. Hell, folks have been doing it hundreds of years, it's not like we'd run out of ideas all of a sudden. It just seems like there's been a troubadour glut in recent years. My theory is that this can be traced to the phenomenon wherein a bunch of guys listened to the first half of Damien Rice's album "O" and decided it couldn't be all that hard to crank out sweet, sweet folk tunes that will make the ladies swoon. The problem is (this is still my theory) they never listened to the second half of that album, and thus missed an important cautionary tale about self-indulgence and, well, you know, self-indulgent crap. So despite getting a revelatory effort every year or two from a Richard Buckner or an Eric Bachmann or a Mark Kozelek, I've come to not expect much from this little corner of the music world.

These expectations were gloriously shattered a few weeks ago when led me to the Bandcamp page of a young singer-songwriter-guitar-prodigy from Huntsville, Alabama named Colin Bugbee. Last month he released what appears to be his debut EP, Hallé, on Get Young Records, a very promising new label out of Boston. In these seven forlorn songs about drinking, heartache, and drinking, Bugbee carves out an astonishingly original and unique space for himself in this genre. His old-soul lyrics and fascinating guitar sketches are arresting enough, but it's the voice -- good lord what a voice -- that has me wearing out the grooves of that tiny file on my ipod. It's hard to peg a proper comparison to his singing. If you've been fortunate enough to experience the genius of Chris Flemmons of the Baptist Generals, that ought to give you a bit of an idea. Heck, why don't you listen for yourself? Here' s a tune off the EP, "Babe, I'm Goddamned Sorry", with subtle backing harmonies courtesy of a couple of Bud tallboys there in the background. It's a beautiful song from front to back, but you're missing the real payoff if you don't watch the whole thing. The version on the record is even better, with Bugbee desperately wailing "I'm not your man, I'm not your man" to finish the song.

Here's the closer, "Mail Order Magazine". Thankfully, the video is a still, so you don't have to worry about anything crawling into or out of the, err, fixtures in the foreground.

Out of the goodness of their hearts, Colin and the fine folks at Get Young currently are offering this terrific record for download at the amazing low price of nothing at all. You can check it out in its entirety, and download it, from his Bandcamp page:

The second track, "21 Overnight" is as good a song as I've heard all year.

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