The Ballad of Lawless Soirez
John Metzger's #20 album for 2007
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2007, Volume 14, #1
Written by John Metzger
Anyone who has spent enough time in New Orleans knows that the city is overrun with talent (or at least it was before the mishandling of the Katrina catastrophe scattered its residents around the country). So competitive was the local music scene that, in order to make even a modest living as an artist, one had to be astoundingly good. Prior to landing a spot playing banjo and steel guitar with Old Crow Medicine Show, Gill Landry eked out an existence as a busker within the confines of the Crescent City. On his solo debut The Ballad of Lawless Soirez, he brings into the present the old-time charm of the early jazz and blues recordings that he initially embraced.
Thatís not to say that Landry doesnít also incorporate more modern textures into his work, and itís easy to decipher the influences that are embedded within his DNA. Dixie, for example, combines the Texas-bred country of Robert Earl Keen and James McMurtry. Neil Youngís stinging guitar-based attack crosses paths with the soulfulness of Van Morrison on Poor Boy. The chamber-folk of Magdalene owes a tremendous debt to Alejandro Escovedo. Loneliness draws from Bob Dylanís canon, and the entirety of The Ballad of Lawless Soirez is enveloped in the creaking, impressionistic atmospherics that have become Tom Waitsí stock in trade. Yet, rather than allowing his heroes to dominate the proceedings, Landry uses them as the foundations upon which to construct the backdrops for his darkened tales of love and loss.
Working with producer Nick Jaina, Landry carefully sculpted arrangements for The Ballad of Lawless Soirez that not only frame but also enhance the surreal depictions of desperation that are outlined in his lyrics. Thereís a spooky sadness that creeps through Poor Boy, and the painful ache of Desiree is inescapably palpable. Similarly, the chilling cry of a fiddle mourns the death-stalked tale of Magdalene, and the Mariachi horns that dot the title trackís landscape seem almost as if they are mocking the lost and lonely life that has been led by the songís narrator. "Donít worry love, everythingís gonna be all right," he sings on Mutiny, the albumís final track. As the story continues and the light begins to fade, however, it becomes clear that in the world that Landry created for The Ballad of Lawless Soirez, hope is a carrot that remains just out of reach, and love is something that is, at best, fleeting.
The Ballad of Lawless Soirez is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box