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Marcus Singletary – “Holy Guitar” Review

One of my most pleasant surprises of 2011 was reviewing Marcus Singletary’s album Smokin’ which came at me entirely unannounced and with aplomb. Back this year with new album “Holy Guitar” can he repeat the feat?

Not one to do things by halves, the opening track “Occupy” is just a mere seventeen minutes long and opens with a strange background car journey which bases the entire track’s background. It cleverly runs adverts done by an offbeat robot host and has ambience as you pop out of the car. It seems to bounce around between genres when the music is playing, although regardless of it being lounge jazz or grungy trance, Marcus is usually at the helm displaying his excellent guitar talent which is obviously the main draw for the track. It doesn’t seem to follow a specific route or pattern and waiting for eight minutes of ambience and fake commercials is bold, but certainly not for everyone.

“The Pennsylvania Pull” is a kooky waltz that sounds like it’s been lifted from an old 1920’s film soundtrack. It’s delightfully playful and well structured – a complete swing from what we had previously. There’s some excellent brass work here too. It fades into “Highway Patrol” which veers off into some minimal electronica that just forms a background for a five-minute guitar solo. We then veer suddenly back to the cute and quaint jazz in “Chicago Stomp” which works well as it just feels like a great jamming session. “Friends” continues the theme and also some of the albums interesting reverb settings, almost like it’s been recorded live in a large hall – like a bootleg. “Echo Park” sits somewhere between the lot of it with some well picked guitar strings over some nice beats.

“Boys of Summer” is essentially the three minutes that a rock gig ends and the guitarist goes nuts as they smash-up their gear. It’s utterly freeform and completely Marmite. “Ensign Parker” seems to follow the same pattern but is a bit more structured before “Move” seems to want to be some kind of sexy chill out bar background music. It’s definitely the most sensual the album has to offer before “Man of Steal” closes the album with a drum/electric guitar solo freak out.

After the album had finished, I really didn’t quite know what to think. It’s an album that veers off so deep into the experimental genre, to try to tell people you’ll like it or hate is almost impossible. For me personally, a lot of it left me cold as it just sounds structureless and while that may be the point – one man just doing his thang – I couldn’t connect with it at all aside from two of the tracks. Guitar purists may find a lot to unravel here but as an outsider looking in – I was flummoxed.

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