It’s been said that Limes mastermind Shawn Cripps spent time living on a boat in the Mississippi River. He wrote his first songs in the cab of his truck while working as a long-haul driver. Despite the fact that he’s called Memphis home for awhile now, that sort of itinerant lifestyle creeps its way into the songs on Tarantula Plus Blue Blood, two older albums that initially went unappreciated by even the typically obsessive fans at Goner Records. The recordings support the case that Cripps belongs in the pantheon of eccentric Memphis songwriter-savants
People move in and out of each others’ lives at the drop of a hat during Limes songs. Relationships start, end, and start up again. Cripps’ laid-back take on his situation is far from the self-centered melodrama a lesser artist might apply, but it’s not utter millennial apathy, either. His measured, stream-of-consciousness observations suggest a guy who has seen so much that nothing can really catch him off-guard. It’s not that being broke and lovelorn doesn’t affect Cripps anymore, but … well, what can you do?
Limes take some natural cues from Memphis’ histories of rock and roll, country and blues, only with those genres’ usual outsize vocal performances replaced by Cripps’ droll delivery and range of about three notes. Rather than having that dreadful Craig Finn "look-at-me-and-how-tired-I-am-of-doing-drugs" aesthetic, though, Cripps’ self-effacing singing sets his exhaustion in even greater relief. Where you’d often find pride in music this mindful of the classics, there’s only Cripps’ bemused resignation at where his love for those records has gotten him.
Limes’ entire approach, from their rhythm section and lyrics down to releasing their music in tiny CD-only runs and not reissuing them properly until years later, seems predicated on the notion of taking one’s time. In an era where a kid half Cripps’ age is probably exporting a Garageband demo right now that will have both circulated and initiated a backlash before this review runs, it’s literally refreshing. As artists and as people, we’ve got more time than we realize, even if it takes somebody with Cripps’ pedigree to point it out.