GILL LANDRY – Skeleton At The Banquet (Banquet Records)

Skeleton At The BanquetGill Landry releases his fifth album, Skeleton At The Banquet, this week with a couple of launch gigs in London on January 28th and 29th. His previous solo albums have been well-received but he is probably better known as a member of the Old Crow Medicine Show from 2004 to 2014, receiving various awards including a Grammy.

The songs on Skeleton At The Banquet snuck up on me – pleasant enough on a first play but grabbing me more and more on subsequent hearings. Landry’s voice has the same kind of baritone timbre that tells you its owner has been there, seen it, survived it (Kristofferson-ish – and whatever that ‘it’ may be) and is now enough in control again of his life that he can play this back to us (Cohen-ish) in songs that beat slower than most hearts at rest. The tunes have lovely melodies and there are some great lyrics full of equivocation intermingled in them.

The link below is to ‘I Love You Too’. “I was glad to share your bed/Often for a night or two/Should have probably smiled instead/When I said that I love you” and the subsequent exploration of the relationship. It’s not romantic – a song about the potential cruelty of saying I love you – but it doesn’t half cut to one aspect at the complex heart of our relationships.

‘The Refuge Of Your Arms’ takes the equivocation in Landry’s lyrics into most lines of the song from the opening “There’s victory in surrender” or the later ”Simple truths turn complex lies” to the poetry in other lines “Hungry ghosts on crowded streets/Empty hearts tween dirty sheets” or “Thirsty souls in whisky bars” and then the yearning chorus of wanting to go from the anonymity of the streets to a place “Where I knew no harm/The sweet home I used to know/In the refuge of your arms”.

Landry describes the album as having been written “two summers ago in a small flat in a coastal village in western France. This all gave me an objectivity I didn’t even know I was looking for and led to me writing this series of reflections on the collective hallucination of America and a few love songs for good measure”. Titles like ‘Trouble Town’ and ‘Nobody’s Coming’ (“Everyone hoping they’re more than slaves”) give you a sense of Landry’s take on wider American society. My favourite of these songs is ‘The Place They Call Home’ which not only has a lovely rolling tune (with a glorious bit of mood-setting-violin from Odessa Jorgensen in a couple of places) but a lyric which is disturbing in its commentary on the American Dream.

It’s worth coming to a close with a note on the wider musicality of the album. I mentioned above the slower-than-resting-heartbeat beat of most songs – but there are also a couple of tracks with a more up-tempo feel in ‘The Wolf’ and ‘Angeline’. The album ends on ‘Portrait of Astrid (a Nocturne)’ – an instrumental which is what it says.

There are nine tracks and Skeleton at the Banquet is a fine album. After his London dates, Landry is in Holland in early February and returns to the UK for more gigs between February 11th and 19th.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘I Love You Too’ – official video:

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