Most people would recognize the name Gill Landry as a member of the seven-piece folk ensemble, Old Crow Medicine Show. While they wouldn’t be wrong to acknowledge him for his timeless inclusion with the band—they just won a deserved Grammy for Best Folk Album, for context—to recognize him for only his work with Virginian Americana would be acknowledging but a small part of a looming composite. Landry is an individually accomplished singer-songwriter as well, having released two full-length albums prior to his signing on to Old Crow Medicine Show label ATO Records for his self-titled major label solo debut. On top of that, Landry is also credited as an ace photographer, self-taught painter, independent mechanic, and even a rubber tramp gentleman, according to his extended Facebook biography.
For as interesting a man as Landry is, his ability to expertly weave through well-worn themes of love and loss in a way that reinvents the musical wheel still comes across as astounding, at first. He carries a palpable world-weary lilt to his deep, emotion-ridden vocal, crafting a moody, brooding full-length composition that could hardly vary much more from the often breakneck picking and harmonies of the party-ready bluegrass sounds of Old Crow Medicine Show while remaining within the same overarching realm of Americana tunes.
“Broken down / Hung up and wasted in an artless town / Thinkin’ of old loves and wedding gowns / Passing time,” Landry brokenheartedly croons, inflecting a retrospective cadence on times gone by into lead single “Just Like You”. It’s the perfect acknowledgment of how Gill Landry separates itself from Landry’s full-lengths released before it. Both Piety & Desire and The Ballad of Lawless Soirez took a more austere approach to heartbreak. Here, a more well-versed, further world-weary soul is able to contemplate his past missteps by a more productive means, bursting in silent confidence along the way. However, the true “moment” of Landry’s on this album lies within his duet with Laura Marling on “Take This Body”, a song dealing with darker themes of despair in transience. It is melded together masterfully with an eclectic instrumental, featuring a string ensemble, brass, percussion, light electric riffs, and some fine acoustic picking, making for the album’s strongest showcase.
Musically, Landry exemplifies his menagerie of facets as a multi-instrumentalist better than he ever has on his self-titled release. “Take This Body” follow-up “Fennario” is just as lushly constructed as the last, featuring a more lively Latin-influenced setting featuring a horn collective reminiscent of Old West mariachi and truly adroit work on the guitar. It’s melded up nicely with a nod towards Scottish classics in its titling: “Fennario”, otherwise known as “Peggy-O” or “Bonnie Lass O’ Fyvie”, is one of the most well-known traditional numbers on the Roud Folk Song Index. Landry experiments with a gospel-esque organ to accentuate the soulful, nostalgic trill of “Lately Right Now” and later delivers a one-two punch with the traditional country ensemble comprised of “Long Road” and album closer “Bad Road”.
From opening number “Funeral In My Heart” to the aforementioned closing track, Gill Landry proves that its namesake still isn’t without a sense of innovation after his thus-far 17 years in the business. Better yet, the album proves that, like a fine wine, Landry has only improved with age and experience. As he prepares to celebrate his 40th birthday in 2015, the singer-songwriter-photographer-painter-mechanic-rubber tramp gentleman extraordinaire can rest easy knowing that his latest release is his most accessible and overall best solo release yet.
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