Stuart A. Staples (Tindersticks) has a new record out, Leaving Songs (Beggars Banquet), and it has been in my car’s cd player for the past week. An intriguing classic, rich in layers of moody country-indie-guitar-with-strings-folk. I’ve realized that the songs have staying power as I find myself re-playing the melodies in my headlong after the car has been put away for the night. Stuart’s voice wraps itself around your cochlear nerve and invades your brain with stimulating acoustic pleasure. His style of singing has been compared to a cross between Johnny Mathis and Leonard Cohen and I think Nick Cave needs to be tossed in there as well. The record was done for the most part at Mark Nevers’ studio in Nashville, so the expected folk/country flavor is there (everyone wants to be a cowboy! A singing cowboy!). Big acoustic guitars
give way to quiet, calm vocals, and sweet horns usher the dusty visions of star filled desert skies from track to track. Staples has Maria McKee (remember her from Lone Justice?) helping out long distance (via Los Angeles) on “This Road is Long” and she supplies her folk grass-root rock experience and vocal maturity to the effort. A gorgeous surprise is Lhasa de Sela’s vocal offering on “That Leaving Feeling”, she manages to add a sublime femininity to this gritty song about regret, exits, and surrender. The song soars because of Sela. The first video for Leaving Songs is precisely this song, “That Leaving Feeling” and if you don’t immediately get Thomas the Train flashbacks, there is something seriously wrong with you. I love Sela’s pixie perfect “the joke’s on you” look throughout the video and Staples’ deadpan is dead on!
Staples mentions that after the recordings were done they scared the shit out of him so he dragged them back to London’s Lucky Dog studio and recruited many of his friends as collaborators: Terry Edwards (Tindersticks) for the brass arrangements and Lucy Wilkins with the strings, and Gina Foster’s vocals. The result is a mellow, rich, delicious soundtrack just begging for a movie to be constructed around its melodic narrative.