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Michael Dean Damron: A Softer, Gentler Sonofabitch

Posted by August 9th, 2005 No Comments »

 

Michael Dean Damron
A Perfect Day for a Funeral
In Music We Trust
By Kasey Anderson

As lead vocalist for Portland-based, guttural rock outfit I Can Lick Any S.O.B. in the House, Michael Damron screams, howls, and yelps his way through swaggering, politically-charged barroom rock ‘n roll. However, it’s not surprising that Damron’s first solo outing, A Perfect Day for a Funeral, finds him in a more contemplative mood, vocally and lyrically.

Damron has always been a sentimental writer. Tucked away on S.O.B.’s most recent record, Menace, was a plaintive and touching eulogy for Rachel Corrie, an American who lost her life in Palestine after being run over by a U.S.-made bulldozer. With Funeral, Damron continues to delve into his “softer” side, with lovelorn lyrics and sparse acoustic arrangements highlighted by David Lipkind’s sterling harmonica work. This new direction is not as much a contrast to his work with S.O.B. as it is a companion piece; the next step in Damron’s writing and performing evolution.

For the most part, Funeral is a successful solo debut, opening with the haunting chord progression of “Little Girl Blue” (“I’d write us a love song/ If I had one inside me”) and closing with the gospel organ of “New Paint.” In between, Damron visits scorned lovers (“A Perfect Day for a Funeral,” “Miss Amphetamine”), an oppressed and beaten African American man (“Spit”), and a cavalcade of down-and-outers. At times, his delivery borders on spoken-word, his voice far more subtle here than on any of S.O.B.’s albums. At times, his vocal inflection resembles the Drive-By Truckers’  boy wonder, Jason Isbell. The downside is that, when Damron’s words fall short, there isn’t much to distract from it, and one is left to ponder whether or not his heart has really been broken badly enough for him to consider murder a viable option.

One hopes that Damron finds a way to fuse Funeral’s stark lyricism with S.O.B.’s bombastic southern-fried attack. If not, listeners should be content to explore the dual personalities of one of the most promising songwriters around. – (7/10)


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