album review: goodnight texas – a long life of living

carrboro music festival: zeke graves

Goodnight, Texas: A Long Life Of Living. Out now, self-released.

Goodnight, Texas is a real town. It’s the halfway point between San Francisco, where Avi Vinocur lives, and Chapel Hill, where Patrick Dyer Wolf plays solo and often with the Tender Fruit. A Long Life Of Living sounds like Goodnight, Texas should sound, a bit dusty and a little old-fashioned, which is what both Vinocur and Dyer Wolf have said they were aiming for in interviews. It’s one of 2012’s most over-looked albums, including by me, since I’m just writing about it now.

The record opens with “I’m Going To Work On Maggie’s Farm Forever”, a rough-hewn tribute to both Dylan and the idea that we’re stuck where we are, no matter how hard we work; it’s a Dust Bowl anthem that rattles and howls. “Submarines” shivers up out of the mountain hollers, with strong picked banjo and fierce harmonies; “Old St John” reads like a murder ballad in mood and a revivalist church in subject.

“Jesse Got Trapped In A Coal Mine” is a story straight out of a night at the bar with Boyd Crowder; the major key straight-forwardness of a song with a truly heartbreaking subject is very much a stoic faced truth of Appalachian living. “California You’re A Hole In My Heart” and “Chapel Hill” each pay tribute to the longing of being on the road, living somewhere that isn’t your home, one each from Vinocur and Dyer Wolf. The quiet nighttime jangle of “California” is pained and hopeful; “Chapel Hill” is about the differences between the East and West Coasts.

They’re separated by “Meet Me By The Smokestack” and “The Railroad”, a (mostly) instrumental that brings to mind loneliness and empty box cars, with union-esque choruses sprinkled through. “Meet Me By The Smokestack” is laced with a guitar hook that will reel you in sure as the lyrics would reel in the girl they’re addressing (it’s one of my favorite happy love songs from last year): hold my hand, little girl / let me give you the world. “Harmony” is the opposite of “Smokestack” — a song about staying in and contemplating your life, maybe not finding that everything is worth what you thought it was, and then the record fades out with “Unknown”, a so-soft-it-feels-loud track under a minute long.

If this record came to life, it would be a town just like Goodnight, Texas — eerie and sad, hopeful and longing, new sounds made with old instruments. Vinocur and Dyer Wolf set out to make a record with a distinct and strong feeling to it, and they’ve succeeded: A Long Life Of Living should be the soundtrack to Justified season 5 in its entirity.

Goodnight, Texas plays the City Tap in Pittsboro tonight at 8:30, and tomorrow at the 506 as part of the Beatles vs. Beach Boys cover show.

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