Skinny Dyck- Palace Waiting review

Skinny Dyck Palace Waiting Sound Asleep Records

While I have quite loved everything Skinny Dyck has done on previous releases, I also appreciate his continued evolution as a country artist. On his Get to Know Lonesome album, one filled with terrific, fairly straight-ahead country tunes, the darkly expressive “Dreamin’” was favoured.

Before many of us had heard of Charley Crockett, the unfortunately nicknamed Skinny Dyck (Ryan on his government-issued identification) was spinning, producing, and creating country sounds dripping with the (sometimes) over-wrought sincerity of Bakersfield with the essence of Nashapolitan touches.

As with classic country, songs here seldom go much past the three-minute mark, their intent and metaphor concisely conveyed over trills of pedal steel and a steady drumbeat. But this isn’t the country of Charley Pride, Narvel Felts, or Don Williams, as wonderful as their music was. Dyck takes a different tact: having immersed himself in the style and manner of the music, he is now creating his own, individual interpretation of classic sounds.

A versatile pedal steel player, Dyck has more personality than many within his downbeat vocals; he doesn’t get too high or terribly deep; a bit like Rex Hobart and Carter Feckler, other Fervor Coulee favourites who know their way around modern, classic country songs, Dyck has a very pleasing voice, well-suited to his music. His phrasing, impeccable.

Dyck doesn’t do conventional, although some songs get close to what you might have once upon a time heard on country radio. “Cutting Off All Ties” is quite simply a great song of classic heartache with a lonesome loser contemplating the reality of his ruinous relationship. “Ripe There on the Vine” is as brilliant.

Dyck’s lyricism has continually developed, utilizing simple words and phrases in impressive ways to communicate honest sentiments in increasingly unconventional ways. Who else observes dormers and gables, and includes them to set the scene as Dyck does in the album’s lead track, “Hey, Who’s Counting?” Or drops the phrase “I’m still drinking mercilessly” into a song of self-recrimination, as in “No Power?”

“Jackson Hole” is a description of a place in time as much as it is of particular circumstance, while “Be A Little Quieter” is straight out of the Eddie Noack songbook, without a murder to sully the pleasure of others’ misery: at least I don’t think the ghost is a victim of nefarious deed within this Porter Wagoner tune. Within “No Power,” the narrator is haunted by a different spectre—memory. Dark reflections elsewhere include “I maintained my decorum until there was nobody around to see” (“In On The Upswing,” the song providing the eight-track EP its title.)

This EP’s most obviously depressing song is also the catchiest; it may also be the most creatively written. A study of emotional isolation, “TV Blue” captures late-night self-loathing, the realization that no matter what others think, at the end of the day we have to face ourselves: “I was tired of the clock in the hall, so I threw it out”—if only everything was so easily resolved.

Skinny Dyck has done it again, upsetting my year-end, roots favourites list in the process. We don’t deserve this guy. Give him a listen.

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