He says he’s a loser. But you know he doesn’t mean it. And he knows you know he doesn’t mean it—and that makes it sincere (with an emphasis on the sin!).
I’m short, 5’ 5”, and I cannot understand why someone would call him or herself “Little”, but Aaron Livingston did. He even gave himself the first name “Son” as if being small of stature wasn’t demeaning enough. He’s no Big Daddy puffing and boasting. He’s just Son Little.
Or as Little bluntly puts is, “You get what you get so don’t expect shit." As you might guess, the musician employs the rhetorical strategy of being the insignificant guy. He is the one who sings about planting trees and watching water boil. He says he’s a loser. But you know he doesn’t mean it. And he knows you know he doesn’t mean it -- and that makes it sincere (with an emphasis on the sin!). He’s a man on the make. When he sings cuts with titles such as, “Your Love Will Blow Me Away”, you understand why he chose the words “Blow Me”. He may not be subtle, but he is an effective communicator.
Sonically, he’s all over the place and displays a fascination with classic rock. One moment he’s the sensitive Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”-era crooner sounding sensitive and hurt, the next Little’s invoking the booming licks of Black Sabbath to underscore his passion. The music flows from genre to genre, like that great FM radio from yesteryear. The most interesting tunes borrow more directly from past tunes than Little’s lesser cuts, which adds to the good ones’ familiarity and gives them texture.
Many of the songs are beat heavy, but he also just takes up the acoustic guitar and sings by himself (mostly) when it fits the mood of the song. What ties the diverse material together is the fluid sound of his voice. He has a smooth, conversational way of phrasing the lyrics. He doesn’t breathe on the album -- not because he doesn’t take breaths, but because he seems never to hold a note as this would s seem unnecessary. However, this can make the slower cuts drag.
And when the topic shifts from love, nature, and such and goes to social concerns on tracks like “O Mother”, he makes the political personal. He’s not asking the world why innocent people suffer. Little asks his mother. Raising the question is enough because no one really knows the answer.
Despite his diminutive moniker, Little clearly has big talent -- maybe more than he knows what to do with. On the best songs, like “About a Flood”, “Go Blue Blood Red”, and “Doctor’s In”, Little goes with the flow and ends up far from where he began. He takes risks and explores riffs rather than stay within the confined structures he himself has constructed.
Little may believe he has many fathers as musical tropes from the past, but who doesn’t have roots. Nothing comes from nothing. Instead of wondering why he’s not treated like a man, as he sings on one track, Little would be better off declaring his importance. His first album suggests the beginning of a major career.