J Tillman - Vacilando Territory Blues (Bella Union)
27 Feb 2009
"the impression gleaned throughout is one of an artist with nothing to prove, no one to impress, and with fleet foxes duties now likely to be paying the bills, this freedom of self expression is something that few artists can afford to indulge..."; release - '09
After Bon Iver gathered almost unanimous acclaim with his desolate, eerie and brilliant For Emma, Forever Ago, you'd be forgiven for questioning the validity of an artist of a surprisingly similar ilk appearing so soon after. But despite these striking similarities, Tillman proves to be very much his own man.
He's been honing his craft for a while now, indeed, in addition to Vacilando being his fifth album, he has recently taken over drumming duties for long time friends Fleet Foxes. Not that this rather crowded list of duties reflects in his output, which to all extent and purpose is the antithesis of a much scribbled calendar, and more akin to a gentle stroll around the less trodden areas of the Nordic fjords - in thick fog, probably with a light frost dusting the ground - you get the picture.
From the moment 'All You See' crackles into action, sounding like it was recorded using equipment procured at an antiques fair, Tillman's voice emanates from the speakers like the overture to an epiphany. Beguiling, beautiful and fragile, it really is a sound that captures the imagination in a fashion so rare. And it's not just the voice, as a wordsmith there is much to admire here. No Occasion's "I don't want to live again, because I don't want this life to end", indicative of Tillman's poignant, heavy laden yet simultaneously innocent turn of phrase.
I mentioned this was his fifth album, and this experience is clear to hear throughout. There is no pandering to the listener here, and whilst changes of pace are present now and again - Steel on Steel in particular is a refreshingly jaunty number - on the whole this record is a labour of love for all that is trimmed down, heartfelt song writing. The impression gleaned throughout is one of an artist with nothing to prove, no one to impress, and with Fleet Foxes duties now likely to be paying the bills, this freedom of self expression is something that few artists can afford to indulge.
"I met you on my way to heaven" goes 'Barter Blues', if there is such a place, it would be fitting if J Tillman could soundtrack the passage through those pearly gates.