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Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Lowlights

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2003 at 12:00 AM

You’ve heard all the comparisons before, from old-timers (Gram Parsons, Lee Hazelwood) to contemporary icons (Giant Sand, Wilco), applied ad nauseam to many so-called young bucks. This upstart, however, deserves the praise. Lowlights is California’s Dameon Lee, a gifted multi-instrumentalist swapping his hardcore punk past for a woozecore pop present. Among Lowlights’ peers one might include Calexico, Black Heart Procession, Beachwood Sparks and My Morning Jacket, but it’s crucial to understand how that fraternity’s common ground is more philosophical that overtly stylistic, each group seeking to divine, in its own eclectic, restless manner, where the frayed edges of Americana ultimately lead.

For Lowlights, then, atmosphere and texture are all. Per the Giant Sand nod above, the easygoing "Wave Goodbye," while sun-kissed with peals of pedal steel (courtesy onetime Grateful Dead sideman Brooks Otis) and winsome guy-gal harmonies, has a deadly noirish vibe that slithers through it like a rattlesnake in the rain. Loping country-folk tune "Gare du Nord," despite the requisite slide guitar and twang, is less No Depression fodder than one might imagine; its spectral keyboard drones and Lee’s murmured vocal give it a distinctive otherworldly quality similar to that of the Church. (Lee sounds uncannily at times like Steve Kilbey.) And the dreamily psychedelic "In The Distance," with its Neil Youngian "Cortez The Killer"-like midsection, seems to drift in from across the ocean and out of another era. In fact, imprecise impressions such as these are what help fuel the haunting, under-your-skin appeal of woozecore. The more you listen, the more you think, and the more you think, the more lost you become in the mysterious sonic reverie of Lowlights.

E-mail Fred Mills at letters@metrotimes.com.

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