Free Music Download: Vic Chesnutt's "The New West + Texas Hotel Catalog"
Wed, 18 Jan 2017 10:45:14
Vic Chesnutt is one of those inarguably classy artists; admired by peers, and beloved by fans, for the body of work he produced that spoke as much to his sense of purpose as it did the landscape from which it arose. This week we're checking out a free download of Vic Chesnutt's The New West + Texas Hotel Catalog.
Chesnutt's catalog stands as much of a record of recent contemporary American folk and roots-rock as it does of his journey as a solo artist. Discovered by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, who also produced the artist's first two albums, Chesnutt was a prolific writer, responsible for writing no less than 17 albums, breaking with the conventions of the typical folk singer-songwriter.
This year will mark the eighth anniversary of Chesnutt's death, and for the first time Vic's first four albums on the storied Texas Hotel label, along with two of his latter recordings with New West Records are being reissued on heavyweight 180g vinyl in exclusive colored editions. To celebrate the release, New West is offering up 12 classic cuts from these albums over on NoiseTrade.
The songs in this sampler of the vinyl edition represent Chesnutt's work well. His voice remains as surprising now as it was when first heard on debut album Little. There's a brittle element to the vocal work here, as if passion and confrontation may well cause progress to falter, but at it's root there is an informed authority that carries Chesnutt through his exploration.
Track 5; "Soft Picasso" from Little is a highlight. As words "the modern girl was elated / by what the revolution gave her" roll off Chesnutt's Georgian tongue with the kind of twang heard emerging from Stipe's larynx in the Monument years, we hear the similarity but also contrast that would have attracted the R.E.M. to champion his fellow Athenian. When this track bleeds into "Soggy Tones" from West of Rome the listener's heart can come up into the throat — these cello-punctuated moments are breathtaking and the surrealism of 'rabbits cooking breakfast' reminds you why Chesnutt is so sorely missed. And he is sorely missed.
However, it's the closing track of this free download — "What do you Mean?" — taken from his album Ghetto Bells — that will truly dismantle the heart. Chestnutt whispers his way through some thoughts, some questions, some observations, in a manner that is so tender, so honest, and so courageous that anyone who has ever loved his work will love him deeper all over again — and lament his loss, whilst also celebrating this release and the timeliness of such honesty. This track, especially, arriving at a time when the country is polarized, and in need of points of reference that denote beauty in process — "Like a salmon headed up the stream" is a lyric that points to the power of nature, the reward of perseverance, and the endless cycle that plays out. "What do you mean?" sings the choir… and Chesnutt answers with clarity.
This is a truly solid release, and it's well worth the time to sit, appreciate and learn what we lost, but also what we have preserved of a man that produced art that will remain of its time and also timeless.
—The ARTISTdirect Staff