"Aw Come Aw Wry"
Sometimes, minimalism can be too much. Take, for example, the penultimate track of "Aw Come Aw Wry," the second album by singer-songwriter Matthew Houck, aka Phosphorescent. "Endless, Pt. 2" runs about six minutes, but because it consists mostly of repeated "oooohs," it does seem nearly infinite -- which in this case means tiresome, not cosmic. Fortunately, not all of Houck's ideas as so wearily inconsequential.
The album begins with "Not a Heel," which demonstrates Phosphorescent's debt to Will Oldham's brand of hushed, skeletal neo-Americana. "I am not a monster / But I will eat your heart," the song matter-of-factly warns. Yet "Aw Come Aw Wry" (which contains three numbered variations on the title track) is not composed entirely of twangy brooding. While John Neff's steel guitar is the set's defining instrument, a three-man horn section's New Orleans funeral-procession bleats lift the sails, if not the mood, of such eerily compelling songs as "Joe Tex, These Taming Blues." Regardless of the instrumentation, Houck is a doleful guy. But about half the time, he and his collaborators manage to transform his private gloom into collective release.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Friday at the Warehouse Next Door with the Bloody Hollies and Pagoda.