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The Late Cord - Lights From The Wheelhouse

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Artist: The Late Cord

Album: Lights From The Wheelhouse

Label: 4AD

Review date: Jan. 11, 2007

Texans both, Cohen-esque singer-songwriter Micah P. Hinson and multi-instrumentalist John Mark Lapham of the Earlies have produced a mini-album of lamplight paeans and sombre hymnals full of melancholic strings, hushed voices and funereal organ tones. The seeds for this labor of love were planted in 1999 when the duo were introduced to one another by a mutual friend, Brendon Carr, who would later go on to front the Earlies. Lapham and Hinson soon began making music together during nocturnal sessions in a covert studio housed in a desolate office building rented by Carr and Lapham. Lights From The Wheelhouse is the first fruit of this relationship and the sounds contained within are reflective of the environment in which they were recorded.

These five pieces are veiled by a devotional almost religious aspect, which is maybe unsurprising when you remember that Hinson was raised in a devoutly Christian family. It is his world-weary voice (it is hard to believe that he is still a youthful 24) that carries these songs; on the opening track “Lila Blue,” his fragile timbres emerge from the slow-moving fog of an old Salvation Army organ, a ghostly and captivating baritone, expressing a longing for something forever out of reach.

On “Chains/Strings,” Hinson and Lapham are joined by cellist Semay Wu for a hauntingly beautiful cut of contemporary chamber music that evokes a torrent of monochromatic memories, candlelit by an ambiguous spirituality. Elsewhere, Lapham’s father (who was a member of Buddy Holly’s first backing band) contributes some spectral vocals to the album’s centrepiece “My Most Meaningful Relationships Are with Dead People,” whilst lonesome prairie winds inhabit the sparse and atmospheric “Hung On the Cemetery Gates,” that departs with a coda of ethereal groans that would have previously found home on one of Alan Lomax’s anthologies of prison song from Parchman Farm, Mississippi State Penitentiary.

This brief debut won’t bowl anyone over and it probably won’t have the critics reaching for their pens and writing great discourses on its life-changing properties. It just isn’t that sort of record. But little by little, this side project will ingratiate itself under the skin and barrow a pathway to the heart.

By Spencer Grady

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