Artist: Lee Harvey Osmond
Album: Beautiful Scars
Label: Latent Records
Release Date: 03/25/2016
For the last 70 years—and maybe since music was invented, I wasn’t there—some of the most interesting artists have worked without widespread success, oddly enough, because their music had too much variety. If the work can’t be described in one or two words, it slides into some artistic slush pool that most listeners won’t wade into.
Lee Harvey Osmond (not an artist, but a project by artist Tom Wilson, of the Rodeo Kings) may fall into this unclassifiable category, and I use his latest very excellent CD as evidence to support my conclusion. From the jazzy flute-heavy numbers like “Loser Without Your Love” and “Black Spruce” to the psychedelic intro and throbbing heat of “Oh The Gods” and the quirky “Shake the Hand, which could have been a mid-career Beatles tune if the Fab Four had played rockabilly, Osmond isn’t so much writing outside the box as ignoring the box entirely.
Looking like either a homeless guy or a survivalist with good sunglasses, Lee Harvey Osmond’s MO is to lay bare his core, his vulnerabilities and his deficiencies. Many of Wilson’s songs, like the folkie “Dreams Come and Go,” are brimming with regret and longing, in this case with harmony from son Thompson Wilson, whose voice is as high and clear as ice as his father’s is full, rich and dark, like loam.
Wilson’s an inspired songwriter, constantly picking at scabs. This album offers ten fine tunes, but the title song, “Beautiful Scars,” isn’t on the CD, another quirky twist. I have favorites, but my choices reflect my personal taste rather than value judgements, because they all have merit. For what it’s worth, “Hey, Hey, Hey,” with its swampy, seductive pull and the push of a bari sax, the acoustic-guitar-driven “Bottom of Our Love” which could have been written by Townes Van Zandt, and the smooth, sexy and Tantric “Blue Moon Drive,” (reminiscent of the Doors’ “Moonlight Drive”), which makes you want to undulate rather than dance, make my faves list, but let’s face it, they all get my motor running.