By Jason Scott 3 months ago
The American man returns with his latest full-length album, packed with emotional tales and sharp musicianship.
The human condition is as a fresh tub of wash put through the wringer. Dripping wet and gnarled into overgrown vines, t-shirts and blue jeans twist in the wind, and everything once known or understood drains into deep puddles on the ground. Mud stirs up, and we can either grow resentful and sour or accept every purple-laced bruise and let it soak into our forms. Many believe fate to be stitched inside the starry cosmos above, the North Star the only real constant, as the northern stretch of celestial bodies spin around it. Others are not quite as entranced by the heavens; instead, such reflections are buried within every decision we make. Americana singer-songwriter David Newbould combs both philosophies with his new album, Sin & Redemption, premiering today ⏤ he tackles his many spire-horned demons to the ground, reconciling a tragically-abusive past with what it means to be free and forgive.
“Well I came first / Or second if you want to get technical on that / I took the brunt of my daddy’s broken heart / From the end of a baseball bat,” he sings, uncaging his childhood as blood-sucking fiends. His words are agonizing and emotionally-exhausting, and they rise from his lips as steam on concrete. The title song, in which his display of raw vulnerability is a wondrous and brave act, underscores the gutting complexities of familial abuse and its outward ripples that poison and prick. In the third act, he punctuates the account with one more metaphorical punch: “Well I got a call from my mama last week / My daddy, he had died / She wanted me to tell her why every time she wanted me to visit / I’d make up a lie…”
Those psychological tendons sprout from the album’s center and string together a splendid exhibit of existence. “The title track is also special to me as a blast of story writing that I felt so strongly about once I was done. I just feel people often have to overcome so much just to finish every day with a straight face for the world,” writes Newbould to B-Sides & Badlands over email, “to the point where it must be easy to step over all your values, things that have been with them since the day they were born. It’s a victory to have people you love, to nurture relationships, to forgive and to be damned what other people think about how you live.
“Smiling in the Rain” pours down through teary drops of guitar chords, courtesy of Georgia Satellites Dan Baird, a waltz-like structure wobbling beneath him. “We saw some sorrow and pain / It took many years to get myself right,” he sings, an enlightened point of clarity and healing. But his story is as exuberant and tortured and cathartic and intoxicating as you might imagine. “Sensitive Heart” tumbles in the sun, melting away the moment you finally let go a relationship, while “L.A. Dreams” borrows the warming effervescent of ’70s folk-rock music, pulsating with a sleeve-sewed heart. “It’s easy not to find your place / When it all comes crashing to the ground / I almost drank myself to death,” he tugs you closer.
His first body of work in three years, Sin & Redemption was co-produced with Chris Tench (Joanna Cotten) and Tres Sasser (Foxtrot & the Get Down, Ashley Clark) and spooks in and out of slinky guitar grooves and stomach-pummeling lyrics that often feel relentless. Such viscerally-charged stories are necessary, though, best consumed through such cuts as “Diamond in the Dark,” a brooding thought-piece that snaps every possible emotional thread. “I got a hard head and a mallet, both feet dragging on the floor / Sometimes a man’s got to move before he knows how far to go,” he almost appears to spin in place, his visage casting a shadowy shimmer across the hardwood floor. The yarn is stitched with repetition as a device to permit his focus to lie predominantly in building vocal suspense and the grueling emotional pillars, also owed to exquisite harmony groundwork. Everything trembles around him, yet it’s the guitar that remains unmoving and unchanged.
A smorgasbord of players ⏤ also including Brad Pemberton (drums, percussion), Micah Hulscher (piano, keys), Derek Pell (strings), Joe Costa (right foot, glockenspiel) and Chris Powell (drums) ⏤ froth in crisp waves to further heighten the turmoil that seems to continue to haunt Newbould. “This album has mostly to do with living with yourself after making choices. I guess in life we usually turn a corner from where we make our choices as free as the wind to where now there are factors and lessons that carry a lot of weight,” he reflects, “and the North Star is still leading a fulfilling life for yourself and those around you. I just wanted to share some stories.”
“Love You Too Much (Henry’s Song)” sweeps through dusty plains of a Linda Ronstadt-rooted mood board, and Newbould’s voice is at its most inviting. “There ain’t nobody who wants to walk on their own / Once their heart’s been taken to sea / Well I’ve got these shoes and the water’s close / Your heart still beats in time with me,” he sings. An unexpected left-hook, “Long Road to Barstow” is a feverishly griping tale that blurs the lines of morality, a savage devolution through an elixir of booze and pills, and you soon peek into Newbould’s perhaps macabre mental hellscape: it’s all fiction, of course, but in many regards, as positioned on an otherwise autobiographical-drenched lineup, it is a metaphor for his own emotional afflictions. Then, “Oh Katy (Just Gettin’ By)” (which was actually produced by Leroy Powell, most known for his work with Shooter Jennings and Sturgill Simpson) wanders through slowly boiling rock with a python-sized whip but still rips with country’s lonesome wail. “We gotta find something more than just gettin’ by” are his final words, bookending this chapter of his life with determined resolve. He absorbs his wounds, many of which are still healing, unto himself, and now, he can surely ride to conquer another day.
“It’s important to me that the words and music feel satisfying on a gut-level, and that there are things you can get out of them on repeated listens. I’ve been going back to my favorite albums and artists for decades. Once you really connect to an artist’s work, you always want to hear what they’re working on next, and you are willing to drive to that town to see them or tell that friend about them. That deep connection is the goal,” he concludes.
Sin & Redemption drops everywhere this Friday (October 18) on Rock Ridge Music.