Album: Jeffrey Foucault

Stripping Cane, SIGNATURE SOUNDS

Surely Jeffrey Foucault has misplaced a middle name, so ably do his husky, weatherbeaten drawl and guitar-picking emulate the sound and style of careworn singer-songwriters such as Willis Allan Ramsey and Kelly Joe Phelps. This follow-up to his 2001 debut Miles from the Lightning is stuffed with echoes of both performers, from the bucolic whimsy of "Mayfly" - a first cousin to Ramsey's "Geraldine" - to the troubled, dreamlike portents of Phelps-esque blues such as "4 & 20 Blues" and "Tropic Of Cancer". Life is tough in Foucault's territory - the title-track image, evoking the visceral battle required to draw sweetness from its armoured source, is also played to pun on "Cain" - and fate lurks where you least expect, such as the riding accident depicted in "Doubletree". Small wonder, then, that the protagonists of songs such as "Cross Of Flowers" and "Northbound 35" are forever trying to escape some dying town, but always tethered by memories, measuring the widening gulf between their present and their past in evocative glimpses of abandoned cars, broken windmills, or "a steeple on the skyline like a single iron nail". It's a fascinating world that Foucault conjures up, full of everyday strangeness, one in which his folk-blues version of Creedence's "Lodi" fits just fine.

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