[3 September 2014]
If you haven’t heard of Adam Faucett by now it’s not for a lack of effort on his part. A member of the now defunct Arkansas band Taught the Rabbits, a group atop many “shoulda been bigger” lists from that region, Faucett has self-released three solo records since 2007 and toured relentlessly in their support, each disc selling enough to fund the next project. With the release of his fourth record, Blind Water Finds Blind Water, on Last Chance Records, he is primed to become a major figure in the folk, roots, and blues scenes.
The first impression most gain upon exposure to Faucett’s work is of his voice, a nuanced instrument unto itself. He can shift from talk-singing a simple narrative, to a keening wail of frustrated passion, to a falsetto of self-reflection all in the space of a song. Like Richard Buckner, he often bends his songs to the intonations of the spoken voice and the patterns of conversation, leading to surprising and oftentimes rewarding shifts of focus and melody. Musically, Faucett’s sparse backing band (Jonny D., bass, and Will Boyd, drums) provides a full sound, often forsaking traditional melodic progressions for more impressionistic background patterns of sound in support of the lyrics, for Faucett’s words and voice are the justifiable focus of the proceedings.
Tony Pressley has dubbed Faucett “Arkansas’ truckstop poet laureate”, and the fanciful title isn’t too far-fetched. Faucett’s lyrical work evokes another Arkansas poet, Miller Williams, whose daughter Lucinda’s work also shares a blues-soaked, backwoods gothic aesthetic. Miller’s poem “Trying to Remember” could serve as an epigraph for this album: describing a muddy pond and a fish that teases but won’t take the bait, he says “Give it up. It will die in dark water.” Faucett’s songs, over and over, outline the beauty and sadness of striving, often blindly, for something greater than the self.
Opening track “Daydrinker” encapsulates the beauty of the whole album. A dissonant chorded intro leads to Faucett’s opening howl of “I have seen all I need to see. Nobody nowhere’s gonna outdrink me / It’s so lonesome in the afternoon when you’re the only one with nothing to do.” There follows a masterful portrayal of the perpetual dusk of an afternoon bar wherein time passes not by a clock’s ticking but by the clinking of empty bottles gathered, like days, in the waste bin. But there remains an awareness of the brighter world outside that the narrator works so hard to avoid and forget. Reflecting on the human relationships that have failed him, the narrator still must acknowledge the artifice of his escape, saying of a server, “She only calls me baby ‘cause she knows she’s getting paid.” This false world is but a diversion.
A martial drum beat and explosively distorted guitar intro leads into darkly brilliant kiss-off “Melanie”. Faucett sings, “Melanie I don’t want to hold hands, get killed by your ex old man / I know that we used to be friends, but no more.” In the voice of someone accustomed to being held at arm’s length but wising up to false promises, he concludes: “I know the way the world works: you get bored and then you get hurt.” The beautiful “Walking Home Late” offers an emotional counterpoint, capturing the simple act of its title, with Faucett’s narrator simply thinking of his beloved. Nothing, not “those thug kids” who might rough him up and rob him or the possibility of the sidewalk opening up to swallow him, can diminish his reverie. The music in the song progresses like nighttime footsteps, lightness in the dark with distorted echoes, evoking perhaps some distant thunder. But at this moment, in this place, all is fine.
“Benton” is a paean to Faucett’s hometown of Benton, Arkansas, coincidentally the location where Billy Bob Thornton filmed Sling Blade. Both the song and the whole of the album evoke that film in contemplating the complex mixture of beauty and darkness lived in the borderlands of the Deep South. “I’ll tell you a story,” Faucett sings, “don’t matter if it’s real.” “Edgar Cayce” is another song of striving, conjuring the mystical figure’s lasting influence on the fringes of the American imagination. The song evokes a time before the internet made every paranormal theory available at a click, a time when kids scanned Led Zeppelin album covers for hints about Aleister Crowley or snuck an older sibling’s copy of the Necronomicon out into the woods in a backpack to lead a mock séance. “We searched unprepared to take advice or a cosmic dare,” and Faucett pauses before concluding, “That’s the way we lose these bodies.”
Blind Water Finds Blind Water is the culmination of Faucett’s years of touring and writing on the road (but always reflecting upon home). A mature, complete work of stunning power, it is an album that celebrates the independence yet underlines the complexities of growing up in small town America. Its songs of striving are equal part darkness and light. Only 32, Adam Faucett is an artist worth embracing and following.