Longtime disciple of the rich and strange music that sings behind the American veil, Foucault has spent the last decade mining the darker seams of country and blues, producing a string of spare and elemental albums of rare power while garnering accolades across the United States and overseas for a tersely elegant brand of songwriting set apart by its haunting imagery and weather-beaten cool. He lives in Western Massachusetts.
Divider Line The Horse Latitudes are those equatorial reaches where only ocean, sky, and desert obtain; where becalmed Spanish sailors put their horses overboard as the cisterns ran dry, or made rituals of atonement. Places of element, and reckoning.
Cinematic in scope and movement, Horse Latitudes, the stunning new album from Jeffrey Foucault begins at the reckoning, confronting the end of nature and the end of youth in a series of vivid dreams, unfolding characters and lovers lost or forgotten against dark fragments of modern time.
Recorded in just three days in Los Angeles and featuring Eric Heywood (Pretenders, Ray Lamontagne) on pedal steel, baritone and electric guitars; Billy Conway (Morphine, Cold Satellite) on drums; Jennifer Condos (Ray Lamontagne, Sam Phillips) on electric bass, and Van Dyke Parks (Lowell George, Brian Wilson, etc) on keys and accordion, with backing vocals and cellos from Kris Delmhorst, Horse Latitudes seamlessly merges the ferocity of rock and the honesty of country behind the plaintive wonder in Foucault's weathered voice.
Like a clap of far thunder, the deep transient rumble of the bass drum announces the title track, paired with a few tentative sliding figures on an old hollow-body bass as they pause, briefly, and resume motion and the pedal steel enters with a single glassine phrase, a bent voicing that seems to suspend time. Foucault's '47 Gibson joins them dust dry, the strings raked backward over a minor chord and we're in: ten songs trimmed to the bone, admitting no extraneous detail, no wasted word:
Drifting into Horse Latitudes The language of thirst A false communion The iron taste of blood In your mouth The wild blue Clocking in at just 2:33, Pretty Girl in a Small Town could be an early REM B-side, its angular changes and oblique narrative shifting gears into to a classic rock bridge, the story of small town claustrophobia and hidden love, while the haunting Starlight and Static muses on the nature of desire, on fame and its price:
I saw you up there Like a city in the footlights Shining in the darkness I couldn't see your eyes They all thought they knew you Nobody knew you And I wanted no one To know me too From the shotgun seat of a '78 Oldsmobile Foucault paints the desperation and longing of 17 in stark couplets on Goners Most, while for the elegiac Passerines, Foucault pares the language back so far it recalls the Zen poet Basho:
Everyone knows No one knows A winter night A hundred crows Flying down the valley. A cross-country collision of rock, country, and folk, Horse Latitudes alights with equal grace on full-band ragers and whispered solo pieces, delivering a collection of songs that inhabit the borderlands of heartbreak and memory. Eric Heywood's astringent electric guitar and desert-dry steel, atmospheric and raggedly ethereal; Billy Conway's deep gravity and just-bridled ferocity; the geometry and spark of Jennifer Condos's deeply musical bass lines; Kris Delmhorst's textural and sidereal voice; the choice embellishments of the legendary Van Dyke Parks on keys and accordion deepening the proceedings like varnish on an oil painting; Each part is necessary, nothing is wasted.
Combining the wide-open electricity of Neil Young with the brooding spaciousness of early Richard Buckner, Horse Latitudes shows Foucault in the fullness of his powers as a writer and producer, offering a compelling vision of modern American music.
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