SON OF THE VELVET RAT – Dorado (Fluff and Gravy FnG037/Mint 400)

DoradoDorado is released on February 17th, the sixth album of husband and wife duo Georg Altzeibler and his wife Heiki Binder who left Austria to make their home in Joshua Tree, California in 2013. They had an impressive career with five albums to their credit and the description “best Austrian singer-songwriter ever”. The new album combines this mixture of European tradition with a modern American feel and a singing voice that draws you in to listen to the songs. Imagine a late Dylan voice, maybe Tom Waits or Nick Cave mixed with the songscape of Brel and Brassens and it will put you in the right territory. There are ten tracks and they take you into this area, a slightly off-kilter and edgy world. The voice is deep and the arrangement is almost jazzy, bluesy, slow pauses after the beat and almost a shuffling feel with a touch of Americana.

As for the songs, ‘Surfer Joe’ is the most obviously commercial and should get radio play. ‘Sweet Angela’ is a great love song to a beautiful girl glimpsed at a demonstration “waving a banner like a headline of your resume” – with the twist that the singer doesn’t actually know her name and has called her Angela so he can write the song. In general, you can hear the imagery as simply descriptive but it’s also metaphorical. You can hear the imagery of the album as simply descriptive but it’s also metaphorical. Take the opening two lines of the first song, ‘Carry On’, “Summer’s gone without a reason….Tell myself Fall’s just a season and not some strange kind of letting go”. Some of it is simply startling “She’s a scar on your eyeball” from ‘Tiger Honey’ or the impact of the last three words in this, from ‘Shadow Song’, “Skin to skin, bone to bone, thigh to thigh/So entwined and so alone”.

My two favourites, though are ‘Love’s the Devil’s Foe’ – with a yearning voice set against a late night tune – and ‘Blood Red Shoes’, the two voices complementing each other beautifully, a chorus that’s impossible not to hum along with, some laid back lead guitar, some gentle brass and lyrics like “I see you follow me and I‘ll follow you anywhere/From the killing floor all the way to the County Fair/You got blood red shoes”.

Oh yes, and even if the music were no good you’d want to read producer Joe Henry’s sleeve notes, an example being: “For some of us, songs are the only cards to play; the only thing our hands will ever hold or our hearts possess suggesting the possibility of bankable redemption.” The album won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you can picture (and like the thought of) listening at 1:00a.m. in a darkened European cellar bar with no desire to go home, I imagine this to be the ideal setting. In the meantime, the stereo does a pretty good job.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Blood Red Shoes’ – official video:

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