Kingdom Of My Youth arrived unheralded, as CDs often do. It sat on my desk, almost got buried under the clutter and was rescued at precisely the right moment. I tell you this, not to explain how things sometimes “work” here but to put off the moment when I have to write something intelligent about this album. Let’s start with the facts and the story. Ian George Van Ornum (as the Eugene police referred to him) is from Minnesota. He’s worked with the band Patchy Sanders and in the duo Fellow Pynins, who will be appearing in the UK this summer, but this is his first solo album.
Ian went back-packing in Europe where he met French rock star Mathieu Chedid, generally known as M, who invited him to record at his Paris studio called – you’ll love this – Labo M. Ian put a band together and work started. The album opens with ‘Gitche Gumee’, a song about Lake Superior, the actual kingdom of Ian’s youth. It took me a while to get into it because it felt too big. Superior is a big lake so I suppose it makes sense but it took three or four plays for it to settle in. Next is ‘The Wild & The Untamed’ based on a bass and minimal drum riff. The lyrics feel like a cut-up exercise and I really don’t get what it’s about but it sounds good.
‘Kandinsky’ is made up of quotes from the Russian painter. Ian has taken his prose and turned it into poetry with seemingly little effort and set it against a multi-guitar backing – it’s rather lovely. ‘Son’ is a bit creepy – I think it’s about the obligations that parents place upon their children – and I kept getting flashes of The Shining. ‘Better With A Buddy’ is a much jollier recounting of Ian’s European sojourn and it’s probably my favourite track. It’s followed by a mandolin and fiddle instrumental, ‘L’Étang-La-Ville’, to keep the spirits up and ‘The Jolly Road’, my other favourite track, oddly reminiscent of Matthews Southern Comfort.
The final track is the odd one out. Recorded solo at home in the mid-west ‘Shenandoah’ is a link to Ian’s previous incarnation as a folk singer, developing from simple voice, drone and guitar and building up to what he is becoming now. It’s impossible to pigeon-hole Kingdom Of My Youth but I do like it and now I want to hear the music Ian came from.
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Artist’s website: https://www.iangeorge.com/