Alberta, the chosen name for David Boone’s solo vehicle, will garner a lot of critical notice for the project’s new album MMMMM and, hopefully, translate into commercial success as well. He’s certainly too idiosyncratic for conventional radio play, but the eleven song collection stands as either a fully realized studio recording or the template for a popular live set and listeners will get a chance will connect with the release immediately. Alberta, however, does establish a style of its own from the first and it isn’t conventional. Much of it is achieved by studio effects, but the fact of the matter is you can hear the core of a well constructed song beneath any of the album’s aural effects. Boone colors his material with an array of miking effects and echo. He makes artful use of distance in a way you rarely hear from artists, but he consequently knows how to close any distance in a dramatic and physical way.
“Outta My Mind” is a rowdy track, pared down to its essential and not a note more, and grows more raucous as it nears its end. It’s always good to lead an album off with your most energetic number and Alberta heeds that dictum with MMMMM’s first number, but even the minimalist approach to arranging, post-production touches, and breezy pace dilute the obvious intelligence and subtle nuance making Boone’s art fly. His vocal talents, however, clearly have a strong screamer side that serves this song well without ever being remotely reliant on its shredding power. “Parlour” has a different flavor entirely. The blues in Boone’s musical wheelhouse comes to vivid life with this number and the added organ fills bring a new sound into Alberta’s mix. His fidelity to blues musical tradition is obvious, but Boone plays something closer to a post-modern take on the form as his ragged garage vibe slightly skews many of the genre’s tropes both lyrically and musically. It’s the genre cast in his own image rather than working as nothing but a reflection of other’s skill.
The dark glide of “Quitters & Thieves” has a slightly altered, heightened feel, like someone riding a steady dreamlike high. The atmospherics surrounding Boone’s voice shroud him in a woozy fog but the effect never comes at the expense of clarity – if anything, his attention to phrasing and enunciation stands out on this number. His writing, as well, deserves notice with this song, but overall too. “Quitters & Thieves”, however, can be used as evidence arguing his talent with words has the same potential we hear from him as a musician. He dials the blues influence on the songs up to 10 with the vibe driving “Baby, Don’t Blow Your Head Off” and amps up the piano as well. Brass makes its mournful presence felt as well. This track has feel for days and Boone’s vocal tunes in with its desperate spirit. It’s involving to hear how his voice strains with certain lines and gives already fine lyrics an extra layer of meaning.
He continues mining bluesy territory with the song “Clueless” and unearths another gem. Boone replaces organ with a strong piano presence running through the track and it has a bleary barroom sound setting it apart from its predecessor. The lyrical attitude is, once again, rather hard boiled, but firmly grounded yet leaving the song open to interpretation. The closing number “Well, Well” is much more considered, musically, than we experienced with the opener, but much of the difference in the comparison lies with the different pacing for these songs. It’s a lyrically and musically appropriate way to conclude MMMMM and the tempo makes a full circle of sorts sonically for the release, Alberta’s newest release connects with experienced listeners, for sure, but has the needed in-roads for casual listeners as well.
-review by Jodi Marxbury