[18 December 2008]
Viking Moses, the musical nom de plume of Brendon Massei, has been turning out limited edition vinyl and short-run CDs since 2003, but The Parts that Showed is only the second full-length. Massei is loosely associated with freak folk movement, having gotten early exposure on the Golden Apples of the Sun compilation and played bass with both Devendra Banhart and Vetiver. Here, however, he takes on not the hearts-and-unicorns fancies of new folk, but rather the more plainspoken aura of Palace Brothers and Bonnie Prince Billy. (It’s no surprise really, since he recorded chez Paul Oldham in Kentucky.) These are lonely musings on hardscrabble lives, sung in a ruminative voice and couched in subtle arrangements of guitar, drums and bowed saw. The single “Jones Boys” rumbles along on percussive strums and old-time-y brush and hit hat rhythms, a porch sing-along-chorus buoying the song into communal optimism. Yet it’s better still to turn to the slow drama of “Little Bows” with its pulsating rhythms and warble-y intensity or the slow, lovely flourishes of guitar in “Under a Soda Sky”. Massei says his dearest wish is for Dolly Parton to sing this album, which is maybe why he’s included a cover of “I Will Always Love You”. It’s a bold move, stripping this diva-friendly show-stopper down to the barest shades of longing, but it works. Dolly, who never let big production get in the way of emotional honesty, would be proud.