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Dredd Foole - A Long, Losing Battle with Eloquence and Intimance

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Artist: Dredd Foole

Album: A Long, Losing Battle with Eloquence and Intimance

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: May. 5, 2005

Dredd Foole – sobriquet for New England’s ne plus ultra of vocal savants, Dan Ireton – has returned to the fray with a longplayer short on FX and long on primal poetry. Which should be of no surprise: Ireton’s monolithic In Quest of Tense provided some much needed color to the pallor’d "man-with-guitar" genre.

Tense was apparitional; sputtering strings and Pentecostal glossolalia permeated lyrical content heavy with a fractured Wattsian ontology: Where Alan Watts pleaded (tautologically) for the world to be its own verdant measuring stick, Ireton’s Tense begged for breath to be measured by breath; word for word; tone for tone. And instead of slipping into solipsism, Ireton – despite the recording’s moniker – crafted music tuned into timelessness; songs poured into one another in a strangely unstable manner, like an AM station besieged by electromagnetic interference. The wealth of the band formed an amalgam of Thothian doo-wop and Sandy Bull exotica – all belted out, bottleneck and grass blue.

Then comes A Long, Losing Battle with Eloquence and Intimance – a comfortable "laying bare" of sorts. Take note: reverb and psychotropic guitar gurgle are eschewed; what remains is the unadulterated Foole: Voice and Strings.

This makeover does wonders for the presentation. Instead of falling into the cavernous psychedelia of Tense, one remains on terra firma, with strong – and cryptic – lyrical footholds proving a most enjoyable acoustic climb. Ireton’s guitar playing is decidedly straight ahead; his feral howl’s the only thing detracting from the conventional strumming. Not to say that A Long, Losing Battle is obstreperously uncultivated; comparisons with Dylan’s stronger work, especially Blood on the Tracks are not unwarranted.

The majority of the pieces on A Long, Losing Battle are confessional in tone; yet, it’s difficult to grasp the import of Ireton’s disclosure. The words, while anti-argot, are disseminated in such an otherworldly fashion: Like Ashberry’s "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," fundamental vocabulary becomes the building blocks of the ethereal.

Byron Coley & Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace imprint have in A Long, Losing Battle… one of their best releases to date. Perhaps the tandem could prod Ireton to spend less time performing and more recording. While Ireton’s more sanguine work (see/hear Dredd Foole & The Din) should be sought out, the undiluted Foole is ultimately a more rewarding experience – a lingering glimpse of a man once thought merely eccentric, but now ostensibly on the precipice of becoming a bona fide American Master.

By Stewart Voegtlin

Other Reviews of Dredd Foole

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Kissing the Contemporary Bliss

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