Album Reviews

Ray Davies

Americana

Artist:     Ray Davies

Album:     Americana

Label:     Sony Legacy

Release Date:     04/21/2017

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With the Jayhawks in tow providing their long patented twang and pop jangle, the great chronicler of modern life both majestic and mundane returns anew after seven years (Working Man’s Cafe, 2008) with a finely honed, 15-track autobiography about America’s long lasting influence on his life and career.

Drawn from his 2013 book of the same name (Volume Two is due this year) Americana finds Davies still on the top of his observational game, allowing humor, sincerity, and insight to color the more resigned, darker corners of the shaky American Dream. Through the youngish eyes of the Brit Invasion to his residency here in States, we quickly move from the dreamy wide sky panorama of “Americana,” to the “wonderful, fraudulent, counterfeit, bullshit millionaire” of LA in “The Deal.” The spry and poppy lead off single “Poetry” laments the corporate heart of The New World and all the buy buy buy/sale sale sale signs in shops and stores everywhere.

A telling duet with the Jayhawk’s Karen Grotberg “Message From the Road” moves Ray’s travelogue from the backwater stage and grand venues through the heart, the mind, and the lonely interiors we all inhabit no matter how much adulation we garner (“A Place In Your Heart,” the bluesy, grinding “Mystery Room.”) The spoken word “Silent Movie” recalls a hang with Alex Chilton (the Box Tops, Big Star) discussing how “songs cheat time.” In another narration, Ray, as the man whose floor is Ray’s ceiling, can hear that “Once you check into the Reality Hotel, the dust piles up and the fights break out . . .the rants, the old habits, the new love . . .” “A Long Drive Home to Tarzana” and “The Great Highway” bring the ride through an often faded America to a glorious close.

—Mike Jurkovic

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