Tom Dyer - I Ain't Blue Anymore
It's tough to get away from Tom Waits comparisons when listening to Tom Dyer's I Ain't Blue Anymore album. Dyer has a similar approach to creating music, which is by making it noisy, sometimes off-key and always raw. Dyer is different from Waits, however, because his voice is a lot smoother. This is not to say he's Michael Bublé or anything; it's just to remark that Waits takes vocal roughness to an extreme sandpapery level, whereas Dyer is merely toughened-up a lot.
The songs on I Ain't Blue Anymore are best described as psychedelic blues tracks. The recording's covers gives hints about Dyer's musical influences. He speeds up The Sonics "The Witch," for a spooky, garage workout. For "Smithsonian Institute Blues (or The Big Dig)," Dyer takes a Captain Beefheart song and transforms it into some hillbilly blues. It features a plucking banjo part and a stomping blues groove.
To call this album a one-man-show would be an understatement. Dyer is listed as playing the following: electric and acoustic guitars, bass, fretless bass and guitar, lap steel guitar, slide Guitar, charango, baritone guitar, banjo, mandolin, bulbul tarang, ukulele, keyboards, saxophone, melodic, percussion and drum programming. This is not to suggest, however, that he is any kind of an instrumental poly-master. He plays all of these instruments well enough to get the job done, like an amateur carpenter just trying to get the hole in his roof fixed, rather than Barbara Mandrell showing off on her old TV variety show.
The instrumental "Pass the Jug," for instance, finds Dyer plucking on many stringed things for a sprightly backwoods tune. You do not, though, hear Dyer going all crazy on any one instrument and doing jaw-dropping solos. He's like that carpenter, merely getting her done.
Dyer also has a little soul music in him, too. "(People Want to Be) Free" is an electrified folk song, featuring off-kilter saxophone part. It's sorta hipster, Tom Wait-sian jazz, like a '60s protest song as sung by Beatniks. "Call on me" also has a rolling, jazz bass line where Dyer does his best pleading soul singer imitation. He's not a natural soul crooner, but you have to give him credit for doing his level best.
This music is an acquired taste, and not something everyone's going to love. This is because Dyer performs with a sort of musical primitivism. Steve Martin once titled one of his recordings, Comedy Is Not Pretty. You might also subtitle Dyer's album Music Is (Sometimes) not pretty because this album is, quite frankly, really rough around the edges. However this approach is not at all a bad thing, if you can get used to it. It makes for real, earthy music. Dyer's "John the Revelator," for example, with its banjo and backing vocals, is a gutsy piece of music. It's church music for people really serious about their religion. It is not the kind of sugarcane in cellophane you often hear on contemporary Christian music stations, that's for darn sure.
Dyer may not be blue anymore, but he sure isn't all smooth, prim and proper. This project takes music down to its pure, sparse, basic elements.
Tom Dyer - I Ain't Blue Anymore