This is a rare and wonderful treat for us – and you. Not only do you have a review here for the brand-new album from the multi-talented Django Haskins, entitled Shadowlawn, but we have the pleasure and privilege of premiering the new video for the track “Blink”, so this is, indeed, quite a moment for all!
Let’s get down to the facts about this album: it’s amazing. Seriously. Not hyperbole. And it’s simply because it’s not what one might expect or be thinking – this is an album that should turn heads and musical minds because it defies being put in a particular musical box or style. This is wholly original – from the mind, vision, pen and talents of Mr. Haskins – and that makes it special. While there’s certain touches that you may find familiar from his work with The Old Ceremony, this particular album has a style of its own – it’s very much a travelogue of the mind through the modern South – at least, in my perception.
The gentle picking of the banjo and sparse recording offered on “Blink” opens things up; listen to the textured vocals – a chorale style that, at moments, immediately make me think of some of Brian Wilson’s arrangements for “Smile” (as on “Cabin Essence”); “The Quarry”, with its ethereal keyboard opening, has a spiritual feel and it isn’t until late in the track, very few vocals and lyrics enter, along with acoustic guitars, which segues right into the previously-aired “Snakes In The Seaweed”, which takes you on an up-and-down emotional ride in a very neo-American gothic way (you can visualize a creepy old house, somewhere in the swamps, as the intensity of the track builds). The disjointed “Above The Timber Line” is a logical continuation – a echo-y piano with dischordant guitar twangs to emphasize the eerie nature of the vocal, while “Crybaby” is a little more delicate but still packs a wallop with its old-fashioned vocal style – an almost gospel-like presentation at a revival meeting. “Grey Through The Day” is possibly my favorite piece, as it’s a simple, yet dramatic piece with piano, an occasional tambourine and very subtle strings and use of vibes to create an other-worldly atmosphere; “World Inside” is a jolly, hard-strummed acoustic guitar track and recalls early American-style folk music.
The beauty of this album is that it’s unfettered and the tracks are carefully, consciously understated. The strength and genius of Mr. Haskins’ approach is “less is more”, creating a haunting, lovely cinematic novel in song. At the same time, the very direct imagery in the video for “Blink” is no less impactful – fitting the lyrics in a warm and meaningful way in its minimal fashion.
As it stands at the moment, this is a leading candidate for my favorite album of 2018; it is fresh, powerful, thought-provoking and pure. I said it before and I’ll emphasize it again: it’s overwhelmingly original and never heavy handed. Django Haskins has absolutely knocked it out of the park with Shadowlawn.
Shadowlawn will be released on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018