I get flooded with so many submissions for reviews each month, one rule I must keep is to never review anything shorter than an LP. However when vinyl is involved, and when it’s from the best vintage voice in all of country music, exceptions are made. Jack White once said don’t trust a music critic without a record player. That’s because to the refined ear, there really is no other acceptable media.
Reviewing short-run vinyl adds a whole other component of grading based on the aesthetic experience a record affords. Packaging and presentation is so much more important, not that it should diminish focus from this music itself, that will always be most important. But you must sit back and take everything in with a vinyl record because you have no choice. Like lighting a fireplace in Winter, a record requires the attention of more than just your ears, it takes care and attention.
Rachel Brook‘s 7″ 500 limited-edition vinyl release Late Night Lover scores high marks for it’s presentation. The fold-over cover is adorned with a non-digital photo of Miss Brooke on the front an back. Inside are the lyrics to the four original compositions in an authentic hand-written image, and each cover is hand-numbered in the 500 sequence. A good limited-edition vinyl release will always include some goodies, and mine came with a Rachel Brooke postcard, a digital download card for the 4 tunes, and a vintage cameo necklace-style sticker.
The presentation works to set a haunting, late-night, nostalgic mood before even one note is struck; the perfect mood for appreciating the textures of Rachel’s pure voice. The bare bones approach and Rachel’s pluck and strum style may make Late Night Lover not the best offering for an introduction to her music; I’d go with SCM’s 2011 Most Essential Album Down in the Barnyard for that. Like Rachel has said, this album is more a gift for people who “get it”.
Nonetheless, Late Night Lover’s tracks are quite strong. Rachel has always born the unusual and unfair triple blessing of beauty, talent, and uniqueness, but she’s been shy to imbibe much sensuality into her music heretofore, until this title track. The addition of a sultry dimension in “Late Night Lover” to Rachel’s always-controlled and calculated vocal inflections makes this album worth the price of admission alone. Add the yodels and class of “Ashes to Ashes”, the sadness and moans of “The Oldest Memory”, and now we’re more than even.
And then here comes “Lonesome Turns Boresome”. Rachel thought she could hide this gem as the last track on a limited release and maybe we wouldn’t pay too much attention to it. Ha! Maybe she was worried it would be misunderstood, or even seen as offensive by some, I don’t know, but I love it. The sharp, biting, ethical message veiled in classic language as was done back in the early days of Old-Time music is resurrected in this brilliant song, and then brought to life in a superb performance.
The only thing I don’t like about “Lonesome Turns Boresome” is that Rachel didn’t write it, though it is as close to Rachel’s as can be, penned by her fiance and fellow musician Brooks Robbins. This song was such a shot out of left filed, yet completely within Rachel’s style, it gives this album two songs that can rival in strength any of Rachel’s others.
We have watched as Rachel Brooke has evolved from the conflict of her punk and country roots trying to mix and blend, to a classic, cohesive style that is all her own, and compliments one of the most naturally-blessed voices in country today. Late Night Lover is a gift that I am grateful for.
Two guns up!
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