Robyn Hitchcock Spooked


It’s a testament to the extent of Robyn Hitchcock’s talents and imagination that he can sequester himself in a Nashville studio with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and come out with something that hardly sounds at all like an alt-country record. And that’s exactly how this delightful, predominantly acoustic album came about, following a chance UK meeting by the three artists. Though short on twang, there are plenty of dark folk elements at work over the course of these dozen tunes. But even those threads seem to fit the versatile Hitchcock nicely, if not strangely appropriately as well. Unlike so many of his peers, Sir Robyn remains as relevant a songwriting force as ever. Here he is at his subtly wisest and profound on tracks like "If You Know Time” and "Everybody Needs Love,” both of which are rife with classic Hitchcock imagery and measured lyrics that seem clearly inspired by recent U.S. aggressions abroad. Not surprisingly, there’s some humour here, too, particularly on the disc’s lone spoken-word track, "Welcome to Earth,” which features Hitchcock parodying a telephone recording ("Press one for famine, two for pestilence, three for Condoleezza and four for death...”) while Rawlings and Welch supply looped crackles and pops a cappella style. Producer Rawlings manages to capture a warm, live off-the-floor vibe while maintaining a sharp sonic sense. His lead guitar work serves as a highlight throughout proceedings, as well. Dylan fans ought to appreciate Hitchcock’s tender rendition of "Trying to Get to Heaven before They Close,” the disc’s only non-original number. (Yep Roc)