Jeff Crosby – Postcards From Magdalena
At the Helm Records – 25 October 2017
Recently having set up home in Nashville, but born and raised in smalltown Idaho, the nasally-twanged Jeff Crosby’s latest alt-country collection ‘Postcards from Magdalena’ is his fourth – born of both experiences and travelling the roads, places and miles in-between.
The pedal steel stained, shuffle beat opening number, Best $25 I Ever Spent was apparently sparked by the name of the town in which it was written – Magdalena. The urban dictionary definition of Magdalena is a down to earth modern hippie girl who likes living in the moment, dancing in the rain and smoking joints. As you might guess, it’s a song about a brief encounter with someone who, wearing nothing but her skin, cocaine and a sun hat “turned me off and on like a porch front light.”
The chiming tumbling chords swagger of the relationship reflections of Everything Will Change finds him walking down Hazel Street, while on the chugging Full Moon On Sunset, he’s heading for higher ground to escape the dog eat dog California life with its stop lights that never turn green, looking for a good night’s sleep. Meanwhile on the walking beat hissed percussion shuffle of Cold Summer, there’s “nowhere to go but back down “ as “everyone’s gettin’ high again in bathroom stalls… riding the bus down to the avenues.”
It’s not just America that provides the impetus, the six-minute Sunrise Over Iceland (for Lois) stems from Isafjordor and is a dreamy cosmic-Americana reminiscence of a late friend, hearing about her passing and the memories and thoughts it prompts.
What Stories, What Light lifts the mood with its pealing pedal steel, and steady drum rhythm as he sings about the “walking millennial blues in the eye of the tornado known as the western world”, a lyric that is more upbeat than such lines might suggest.
It is, however, the more reflective tracks that stand out and none more so than the ’60s protest folk troubadour strum, Hotel Bibles, with its harmonica, Dylan references and Steve Earle echoes. A self-examining musing on self-destructiveness and regret over a lost relationship, he sings about “the bed I made and I can’t sleep in it” and how “somewhere deep down I knew it wouldn’t last. Maybe if I would’ve taken ma’s advice, asked for your hand in marriage, but I opted to think twice and I’m not alright.” But that’s also mixed with thankfulness for the time together, and that “our love was the product of our own demise. All the blood and sweat and tears, we didn’t waste it.. like an old tattoo the definition faded, still there as the meaning of it changes, like hotel bibles with torn out pages.” Like the titular good book provided to hotels, there should be a copy of this in everyone’s room.
Out no via At the Helm Records. Order via Amazon.