I'm so glad we don't have to introduce off-kilter, lyric-driven folk music like David Strackany's with the prefix "freak" anymore. And don't even get me started on "New Weird Americana," no matter how easily a less-sleepy blogger could probably use that as a segue into mentioning the Illinois singer/songwriter's previous collaboration with Washington, D.C.-based Jesse Elliott as These United States. The tunes Strackany played at Vaudeville Mews tonight as sole member of Paleo weren't as archaic-sounding as that band name, though his measured, reedy tenor and ingenuous yet grandiose figurative language certianly owed something to the 1960s folkies, specifically Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Even when Strackany was most backward-looking, he brought to it something whimsical and original-- "Nothin' blowin in the wind but the breeze," he sang on what might be a new song, while "Somewhere There Is a Mountain" moved from some eccentric personification that perhaps unintentionally recalled Donovan's "There Is a Mountain" to small but legitimate epiphanies like "Somewhere there is a rich man dreaming he is me." As a rule the music was slow, Strackany's left hand lingering high up the fret board to give the strums and arpeggios a distinctively pinched, twinkly sound, almost mandolin-like. His voice also wavered between the self-consciously flawed plainspeak of Jeffrey Lewis-style anti-folk (if you haven't heard him, then let's say early Beck-- but you really should check out a couple of Lewis's songs) and the more staid roots revivalism of an M. Ward. His imagery was big and simple, Biblical in a way, never saying "light-winged Dryad of the trees" when he could say "bird," and I liked how he took the time to cram his songs with extra twists and details-- one about a window with a view of the sky had a nice closing metaphor involving someone who throws stones but never watches the window break. You might wonder if Strackany is an even better self-promoter than songwriter, because he joined the likes of Podington Bear in getting himself national media attention by embarking on a super busy online recording/release schedule a couple of years ago. Then again, 365 songs in 365 days is no small feat! It's hard to imagine too many of the products from that kind of process turning out that great, but Strackany would had to have learned a few things about songwriting along the way, and it showed tonight. Definitely not for everybody, and he's not Josh Ritter yet even though he has a few of the same lyrical tics that seem to bother other critics about Ritter, but I'll keep an eye on him and am totally pleased to have seen him for five bucks on a quiet Tuesday night.
Anybody see Gomez tonight? Anybody going to Gogol Bordello tomorrow?