First, let me say this: Mt. Desolation’s self-titled debut is a magnificent and beautiful record. However, if the intention was to delve into country, they only succeed in pulling off two actual country songs. “Platform 7” is classic, in the honky-tonk, hoedown vein, terrifically fun and refreshingly underivative. And “The ‘Midnight Ghost'” is undeniably country, laid-back, with impressive three-part vocal harmonies, and soul/gospel overtones recalling the Band and late 1960’s/early 1970’s Charlie Rich.
That about does it for the country.
Around the same time Mt. Desolation was working on this project, another UK supergroup formed, led by Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody. He indulged his passion for country music and formed Tired Pony, with everyone from Scott McCaughy (The Minus Five, R.E.M.), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, Belle & Sebastian’s Richard Colburn, and more recognizable figures. It was nice for Gary Lightbody to take a break from ruining the once great Snow Patrol, but there wasn’t a damn thing country about the record.
I say “another UK supergroup” because Mt. Desolation is essentially the same thing. With Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin running the show, other honorary members include Ronnie Vannucci from the Killers, Tom Hobden of Noah & the Whale, Mumford & Sons’ Country Winston, and other folks who stopped by the studio to contribute. Not to mention it was produced by a professional of the boards, Emery Dobyns, who has worked with Antony & the Johnsons, Noah & the Whale, and Patti Smith.
There’s not really a bad track on here, the worst being “Bridal Gown”, which gives us overtones of dark folk, but is basically just a pop/rock song with spurts of loveliness; the only downside is the melody isn’t as engaging as other songs, since everything else is so glorious. Like “My My My”, a thing of pure beauty — very, very forlorn folk you’ll easily not easily forget. The other slice of perfection is “Another Night on My Side”, which is pure Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, mid-tempo and pensive, with sophisticated tunefulness and dueling male/female vocals that end up harmonizing with each other in resplendent glory. “Annie Ford” makes the presence of Keane members undeniable, but with melodies so strong, there’s not a single problem present. “Coming Home” takes the elegance of the Divine Comedy into a folk-pop setting and the final product is superb.
There’s more here, of course, but why ruin any surprises? So, as I said before, country? No. Consistent beauty? You bet your ass.