December 13, 2005

Lowlights "Dark End Road"

You've got to hand it to Dameon Lee; he's a man who knows a thing about atmosphere. His band, Lowlights, comes across like a mixture between a more countrified Grandaddy and a more gentrified My Morning Jacket, but he does so in such a sublime manner. He's woven the delicate gossamer of Sparkehorse into the gritty dust and sand of the old Southwest, baked it in the summer heat, and the results are simply marvelous. Okay, so maybe that metaphor is a bit cheesy, and the comparisons are a bit lazy, but the point is this: the sounds found on Dark End Road might seem familiar, but it's to Lee's credit that he's managed to make it sound completely original.

For his second record, Lee has gathered a small orchestra to accompany him; with their assistance, he's able to expand the depths of his bleak, dark atmosphere yet ironically make his music much more delicate. Under his direction, the band sets about creating music that's slightly psychedelic, somewhat sad, and more than a little beautiful. Because of the attention paid to intricate detail, it's hard not to fall in love Dark End Road, and it's these little things that seperate Lowlights from their contemporaries. The soul-piercing harmonica on "The Way You Were," the gentle raindrop-sounding keyboards on "Hide Awhile," the slight piano on "Snow Is Silver," the gentle wash of pedal steel on "Curse"--these little things add up to a wonderful accompaniment for Lee's sad lyrics and even sadder songs. The band falters only once, on the upbeat rocker "Drive Thru;" though it's a good song, the fast pace and the horn section just feels out of place. (Oh, the song's still wonderful, but it's a bit more ramshackle than the rest of Dark End Road.)

Dark End Road is a simply simple delight; it's dusty and dark and spacey and sad and pretty and all of the likeable things about country music, made by a group of people who probably don't consider themselves a country band. Making good, beautiful music is a wonderful thing, and it's hard to deny Dark End Road. It's the perfect record for those moments when you're not feelin' too good, are feelin' a little sad, or simply want to enjoy the beauty of a grey day.

--Joseph Kyle

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