Record Debut & Review: Rickey Powell's "El Vado" - UPDATE

Letter to a friend in January:

"Like the half-black/half-white man said, 2009 is a time for shit to change (I'm paraphrasing). Onstad. BN. The myth of home equity. We're all sick and tired of the itchy, wet, wool covering our eyes. Mother of Christ, I'm so sick of it all.

Ty Hardaway, what say we monster the fuck out of 2009?

And I don't give a shit if anyone sees it or anyone notices or anyone gives a ratcrap. That's just how it's going to be with me this year."


Album to a friend in May:
El Vado is here

First Review:
El Vado
by Richard Powell Walkling

If El Vado can be translated as ‘the way out’ en Español, then Walkling has easily accomplished this mission on this album, which immediately attacks you with the knowledge that you will be diving right in to his mind. The opening track “Boomdigga” begins with a simple “Let’s Do It!” cut to a mental scream, beckoning you to “dig down deep” into a mellow, desert valley-inspired road trip to the abyss; complete with a Flaming Lips-like oddity, as well as a feeling of the inner mental void I’ve not personally experienced since the late Fred Drake’s Rancho de la Luna-produced “earthlings?” self-titled album. Walkling then proceeds to summon the spirits of J. Mascis’ and Neil Young’s love child in his soulful singing guitar to finish off the initial piece.

This is the middlespace* of the mind.

With “Oakland State Song”, the listener is immediately kicked in the teeth from their numb complacence with a rousing noise - a call for alarm from the trip through the synapses. Perhaps this is the shift felt from flying down the highway through the valley on acid and pills to reaching the inner city; the chaos destroying the bliss.

“Las Cavalares” picks up with a funk groove reminiscent of a hot dusty day in the desert spent tossing back cervezas at an outdoor pub. You feel lazy and calm, but seem to be waiting for something to turn up, perhaps a lovely señorita. There is trouble brewing towards the end, as some words were had between yourself and the locals, but in the end pain is avoided.

The album takes a vast turn towards an almost popish, Beck-meets-Modest Mouse feel with “Autumn: Arc of a Dead Bird Falling”, where Walkling reaches out for an emotional plea from the listener. With lyrics such as “everything’s the shape of milk in your mouth” and “all of our everything – headphones and cocoa”, it seems apparent that he is pondering the futility of understanding the infinite, only to wail this sentiment in guitar form later on.

With “New Mexico State Song”, he takes it a step further- summoning hope by expanding this Earthlings?-toned voice and incorporating an inspired U2 and “Receivers”-era Parts and Labor presence into the mix: this is melancholy complacence demanding to feel once again. He cries out “You know how happy you used to make me? Just make me that happy again” in a desperate plea to the infinite for some cosmic understanding, only to once again cry out with his guitar, building a crescendo to catharsis and release.

He follows this with “The Widowmaker”, which begins with low bass frequencies, speeding up to a phased out vocal performance - beckoning to you like your inner voice in the midst of drunkenness; the part of your brain reminding yourself of each obstacle in your path. We then are taken to “After the Pacheco Street Carnival”, a call to arms for sanity amidst the ups and downs of this middlespace*. The opening guitar line stabilizes the turbulent ride taken by the listener so far, adding the mantra “When my baby - she comes back to me - she’s all right, yeah she’s all right”, reassuring the psyche that all will indeed be fine, anything can be survived.
Such is life.

Ultimately, Richard has captured a very palpable sentiment of despair, loss and hope with this album, and managed to do so in his very own voice - something that is seemingly completely lost in this day and age of autotune and American Idol. Despite hearing similarities to other artists, there can be no mistaking that his mental DNA has been tagged all up and down this record like Neckface is to Manhattan. This is hope that all is not lost in the music world, whether you enjoy it or not.

- TL Bridges, NYC

*middlespace coined by Ty Hardaway

----------------- UPDATE
[Daniel Paige review]