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The Raining (Chorus) King
Vernon's Mud and Other Favorites (Independent)
danny flanigan and the rain chorus
danny flanigan has been pretty busy since his last release: getting married, changing jobs, having a baby, but perhaps one of the most obvious changes on this album is his move from guitar teacher to bricklayer. The quiet folksiness of previous releases has been turned up, tightened up, and strides with confidence across the stories of normal people living normal lives with as much poetry as they can. This is a sound that has muscle, and that muscle is what moves this release far out of the pack and makes it worthy of national attention.
Vernon's Mud stands out not only for its musical quality, but its message as well. If Kentucky's philosopher-farmer Wendell Berry picked up his guitar, his poems might sound like these songs. Full of stories of the pleasures of work, love and family, this is a slice of classic Americana that engages and provokes at the same time.
While the album is essentially joyful, it is not naïve. "Goliath" is a moody confession of self-doubt and at the same time a tentative confession of victory as flanigan quietly but firmly sings, "if I call you Goliath, then you must call me David." In "Faith Never Sleeps," he writes a modern-day Psalm contrasting depression with hope: "My times right now they are tough/I must not be praying enough/I'm gonna hold on to what I believe/Faith rests but it never sleeps."
The country-rock vibe that often pops up on Vernon's Mud is irresistible, and listeners who can avoid dancing while listening are stronger than I. "Girl Named Mae" and "Work the Change" are great examples of this. Occasionally, though, the toe-tapping, loose feel of the album gives way to a moody, jazz-like feel as on "She Talks of Family" and "Goliath." Both were made to be listened to by candlelight as soft rain falls.
As usual, the rain chorus more than ably backs flanigan, and it's hard to imagine anyone complementing his rough-edged vocals as well as Kelly Wilkinson's sweetly- confident harmonies.
The bottom line is Vernon's Mud And Other Favorites is more than substantial proof that Louisville is home to a bricklayer who also happens to be one of its greatest performing songwriters. This release deserves every ounce of national attention it will no doubt garner.