Scott Link is Coming Around
It seems the big new thing on the local music scene is to include one super-cool cover from the ’80s on your new album. A couple weeks back, Lost on Liftoff and Jason Spooner took on INXS and the Talking Heads, respectively. This week, Scott Link, formerly Diesel Doug, drops Coming Around, complete with a cover of “I’m the Man,” which Joe Jackson technically released in 1979, but sure sounds like an ’80s tune to me.
GOING SOLO: Scott Link.
It opens with sideman Matt Robbins’s guitar wailing on a single note, pretty dang new wave, and then Link comes in singing, “Pretty soon now, you know I’m gonna make a comeback/And like the birds and bees and the trees, it’s a sure-fire smash.” It’s about half-time the original, with handclaps paying homage to the genre, and Link crushing the chorus all the way through the call and response.
Never mind the delicious irony of a lyric like “What’s a few broken bones, when we know it’s all good clean fun/skate boards, I almost made them respectable” being on a fairly straight-up country album, but that whole thing about a comeback is a little apropos, no? It’s been about three years since Link started working on his debut album as a solo artist, a solo artist working under his real name, no less, and now here we are, with eight new songs, two retakes on Diesel classics, and the piece by Joe Jackson.Does it sound a whole lot like the two albums that made Diesel Doug and the Long Haul Truckers leaders of Portland’s then-thriving alt-country scene in the late-’90s? Well, yes. Except that some of Doug’s playfulness has been replaced by Link’s world-weary kind of resignation that hits you from the beginning of “End to End,” with its tears that “can look like sweat under neon light” (accompanied by Troubles and Frotus Caper-type Joe Boucher’s accordion), to the end of “each new horizon” looking “the same as the old” while “Chasing a Ghost” (accompanied by Pete Kilpatrick-collaborator Angela Doxsey on violin).
In the middle, there are plenty of love songs and world-weary narratives, including “Done,” a piece of pure heartache that opens with the fine turn of phrase, “Your heart was burning/As if you’d swallowed the sun.” I’m tempted to call this alt-country, but it’s really just country, only devoid of that cheesy put-on Southern accent that all the pop country artists develop down in Nashville. (A quick diversion on “country:” Um, what’s going on with it? One of the biggest things in “country” music right now is this guy Cowboy Troy, who doesn’t make horrible music, but does make a blend of heavy rock and rap, closer to Linkin Park than Hank Williams. I have no problem with it, and might even like it, but have we gotten to the point where content defines genre? Just because the dude wears a cowboy hat and talks about “hick chicks” doesn’t mean he’s country, does it?) Link doesn’t tread in a lot of edge or irony. Mostly he writes drinking songs (Link has an affinity for the High Life, let’s say), whether singalongs that are great when you’re drunk in a bar with other people or ballads that call for crying and beer when you’re all alone.
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