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Aided by 16 guest musicians, this Chicago troubadour’s third solo album adds plenty of new stylistic wrinkles to the homespun, Wilco-esque alt-country of his 2014 II and 2011 Archive + Spiral. Fans of his noisier, crunchy indie rock outfit Kaspar Hauser (named for the mysterious abandoned child who caused a sensation in early 19th century Germany; I reviewed their 2009 third LP The Sons in issue 64) will recognize Blood’s lovely opener “Lord of the Flies”; it was the second song on KH’s 2016 fourth album, Last Ghosts. But Comerford gives it a more incandescent, island/hula-flavored overhaul, with John Lennox’s and Randy Mollner’s glittering, Go-Betweens-esque electric guitars, Edward E. Crouse’s swirly organ, and the soulful, soothing backing vocals of Crystal Hartford, Angela James, and Beth Yates all contributing to its joyous, jangle-pop vibe. While none of the remaining seven songs is as sanguine, they’re just as succulent, each displaying distinct strains of ‘70s rock in addition to Comerford’s more familiar Americana.
To wit, the dust-strewn, downcast duet “Stumblebum” has a Spanish-tinged, spaghetti western/desert music ambience, with Comerford’s brawny baritone beckoning Lou Reed, Gordon Lightfoot, and Harry Chapin, and balanced by the tender yet tantalizing trill of co-singer Amalea Tshilds. Next, the soporific, squiggly “Lull” summons up Hot Tuna/Moby Grape/Grateful Dead-inspired folk-blues, with Comerford’s and Hartford’s hazy harmonies, Tatsu Aoki’s springy acoustic bass and shamisen, Gregg Ostrom’s pliable slide guitar, Jamie Kempkers’s cello, and Comerford’s harmonica all hypnotically “lulling” the listener in, bringing to mind a jam band rendition of The Doors’ “The End.” Elsewhere, the more bucolic and brooding, Big Star/Graham Nash/Chris Bell-tinted ballads “2 Centuries” and “Tonight” are again enhanced by the gospel/choral coos of Hartford, James, and Yates, while Azita Youssefi’s twinkly piano and hushed singing bolster (respectively) the “Hey Jude”-conjuring “Sault Ste Marie” and Leonard Cohen-ish “We Must Not Be Brittle.” Last but not least, the twangy, slide guitar-shaded “The Palace” sounds like The Velvet Underground or The Feelies as if they were covering “Proud Mary.”
For many, the appearance of a “blood moon” – a lunar eclipse in which the earth blocks the sun’s rays, turning the moon a deep brownish-red – is a time for reflection and a resetting of emotions. As befitting the album’s title, Comerford is constantly looking back on and taking stock of his life. On “Tonight,” for example, he seeks strength and guidance in anticipation of a “reckoning” of impending familial obligations.To that end, Blood is not only a relaxed and resonant listen musically, but lyrically it feels reminiscent, reassuring and resolute. (thomascomerford.bandcamp.com, thomascomerford.net)
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