Stereoptican, title of the new album from Gary Lucas and Jann Klose, refers to a vintage type of slide projector that combines two images to create a three-dimensional effect, a perfect metaphor for the coming together of these two musicians, Lucas a well-respected veteran guitarist (he played on Captain Beefheart’s last two albums) and songwriter whose credits include having co-written Jeff Buckley’s signature songs Grace and Mojo Pin (Buckley was briefly part of Lucas’s Gods and Monsters project) and Klose a German-born singer-songwriter who was raised in Nairobi, Kenya and South Africa before eventually settling in the States. He too has a Buckley-link, having been recommended by Lucas to provide the singing voice of Tim Buckley in the 2012 film Greetings from Tim Buckley.
Their first album together, constructed over three years, is a summery acoustic affair that ranges across a variety of styles and themes, opening in a New York mood with the jazzy, finger-clicking, harmonising Fair Weather about people who blow hot and cold before shifting to one of their first collaborations, the catchy, fingerpicked city-themed Secret Wings.
The mid-section of the album focuses on folk blues, first up being the fan/artist dynamic of Let No One Come Between Us, co-written with Dan Beck, followed by the Canned Heat-ish Walking and Talking, the pop-tinged Well of Loneliness with its sax break, the riff-driven moaner Take Your Medicine and, featuring more soprano sax, Nobody’s Talking.
Jewel Julia shifts back to a looser slightly psychedelic 60s folk-pop sound with intricate fingerpicked guitar and echoes of both Led Zeppelin III and Billy Joel, Lucas maintaining the nimble technique for Mary Magdalene, Klose moving between a smooth soft vocal and the more urgent energy on the chorus of a song that addresses those affected Hurricane Sandy. Although there’s a radio edit of Secret Wings tagged on the end, the album per se closes with another Beck co-write, Overture, a driving baroque soft rock showcase for Lucas’s playing with Klose ranging up and down the scales, sustaining the high notes and taking the track out on jazzy, Latin-shaded scat.
It’s not an album to catch the mainstream ear, but those who appreciate dazzling guitar playing and a strong, versatile and vibrant vocal in the service of urban Americana will find much to savour.