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D.S. Yancey

Salt the Earth and Fill Your Hands

(Thinker Though; US: 18 Jan 2011; UK: 18 Jan 2011)

Would-be troubador's shaky debut

DS Yancey’s debut effort has some good songs on it, but man, it starts off rocky. “To Be Your Man” perversely acts as a showcase for Yancey’s most glaring weaknesses—his straining, unsteady voice and cringe-inducing lyrics—while ignoring his considerable wellsprings of passion and energy. “To Be Your Man” sounds like nothing so much as that really annoying busker at the bus stop, the one you wish would just go away and practice for a year. Or two.


What makes this all the more bewildering is that the very next song, “Eli Merchison”, is better by a mile. Dull plodding guitar is replaced with more vital strumming, and the long ballad suits the rough earnestness of the singer. Elsewhere on this record are similarly engaging songs like “Pin” and “Heal”, but so too there are plenty of clunkers: “Bradshaw Mountain” and “Maricopa County Line” come to mind. Yancey sticks with solo acoustic guitar for most of the album, with only occasional ventures into more complicated arrangements—a touch of mandolin, a bit of drumming, some harmonica. “Imperial Prayers” features a dose of unexpected electric riffage.


Dylan he ain’t, or even Springsteen, but some of Yancey’s performances are engaging enough. Pity about that first song, though; its ghost hovers unpleasantly over the entire rest of the record. The listener is reminded of it every time Yancey hits a weak note.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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