Hear that train a-comin’

 Wax Tablet
By PORTLAND PHOENIX MUSIC STAFF  |  August 30, 2013

waxtabs_jessepilgrim_main 

Looks like we nearly missed a new release by indie-punk act Jesse Pilgrim and the Bonfire from back in May. Recorded two years after his debut/breakthrough Trial and Error, the 10-song Parts and Labor collects live tracks, demos, and roughs, each of them recorded with a different grit in a different location. Pilgrim’s songs are refreshingly simple. They steam straight ahead, like Billy Bragg or Johnny Cash, and his lurid, impressionistic lyrics are better for having little in the way of affectation. On Parts, crowd faves like “Whiskey” and “Ghost Town” get their own surly updates, “The Flattest of Country” grants Pilgrim access to an obsession with the American landscape, while the reluctantly sweet “Tandem Bicycle” finds his heart at its most hopeful. The record also includes live and studio versions of the definitive new track “Six Six Six,” a dark thumper that Pilgrim was commissioned to write for a horror movie. Don’t know if the film was ever shot, but no matter — “Six Six Six” has been given its own rather brutal narrative in a gorgeous music video shot in the Oregon desert by Mint Films (mintfilms.net). We don’t hear much about Pilgrim’s live shows these days, but this is a reminder that he’s still one of the better country artists in the area. Available for download at jessepilgrimthebonfire.bandcamp.com.

The prog-folk songwriter Jonah Michea Judy just moved to these parts from North Carolina, which places his new double album, Night, The Different Painting/Blood on Snow, into our constellation of local contemporary folk works. It’s an interesting addition with not much nearby parallel. The two-disc CD tears through 19 adventurous, emotionally charged snapshots, with Judy’s quavering, whisper-sung vocals hovering like a more hopeful Elliott Smith over alternatingly plaintive and muscular guitar work. All these tracks are acoustic and percussionless, yet the Tool influence is oddly apparent, particularly in tracks like “Climbs,” where Judy lets his sinewy guitar lines wriggle their way out of conventional time signatures. Judy’s songs are sad but not mopey, dark but not depressive, and confessional enough to convince anyone that he’s clearly reckoning with some serious business of the heart. We find them tastefully honest and poetic — and are grateful that they’re not the least bit funky. Each contains a little catharsis, and while the intensity might demand a lot from some listeners, they also contain a fair amount of inspiration and reward. He’s new here, so be on the lookout for live shows, and we imagine this’ll be in the Bull Moose circuit soon enough. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’re only a quick search away from a YouTube video of him playing Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” while riding a unicycle. Visit jonahmicheajudy.com.

  Topics: New England Music News , Jesse Pilgrim and the Bonfire, Wax Tablet
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