Trouble in neo-paradise

Saved by the Great Yellow Bird
S.A. Garrison & D. Luke

By Kory Wilcoxson

For such a trouble-free sound, this is a most troubled album from local muser and former Kinghorse member Sean Garrison. The songs were created over a number of years in a bunch of different living rooms and kitchens and recorded on varying qualities of equipment. In fact, the only constant in the 45 songs on this two-disc set is Garrison's depression and animosity toward life.

The sound is amazingly simple: It consists of Garrison and his guitar, occasionally accompanied by another guitar, bass or mandolin (together, the group is known as Driftin' Luke). It's a blend of the basics: country, folk, bluegrass and blues. The music is "Down from the Mountain"; the mood is "Jump Off the Mountain."

The liner notes tell a sad tale of lost love, booze and mental struggles that give each song a bitter flavor. Garrison's whiskey-drenched twang adds to the authenticity of the bleak pictures he paints, and the sparse instrumentation mirrors in the isolation and loneliness about which he often sings.

Technically, this is not an enjoyable album. No one should have to sit through 45 songs of "gloom, despair, and agony on me." But there is something strangely magnetic about the brutal honesty in Garrison's lyrics, and the subtle desperation in his voice. There is no doubt a wealth of people to whom Garrison's songs will speak like a rejected, boozy old friend.