Pretty And Black
By James Calemine
North Carolina native Jonathan Wilson's Frankie Ray contains the work of a talented songwriter. These quiet songs evoke a subterranean sound. Astral lyrics painted around acoustic-washed songs. Wilson recently moved to Los Angeles where he began playing shows and collaborating with The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson and The Jayhawks' Gary Louris. Wilson has also performed with Bert Jansch and Ramblin' Jack Elliot.
On Frankie Ray, Wilson plays guitar, acoustic bass, electric bass, moog bass pedals, mandolin, baritone uke, lap steel, pedal steel, wurlitzer, minimoog and Hammond organ. These 16 songs construct a somnolent mood where Wilson described Frankie Ray "to possess a DNA where Gram Parsons, Curtis Mayfield, Alex Chilton and Nick Drake would be at equality."
"Your Ears Are Burning" sets the hypnotic tone for this CD. "El Matador" features a strange Spanish resonance one might hear on a Daniel Lanois album. This music fits somewhere between a memory and a dream...
An echoing pedal steel moans in "Waltz With Me" with a stark simplicity. Wilson's lyrics in "Road 92" conjure wide sonic landscapes in the lines:
"The milky way from the hillside/Frozen custard by the wayside
And we're driving beneath the stars/Wherever you are
Through the winding road 92/Sunset through the windshield framing you
Swans are flying beside us/The prairie moon will guide us
The mighty Mississippi behind us."
"Alabaster Dove" ranks as one of the best tracks on Frankie Ray. These songs are a musical sedative. The title track could've fit on The Flying Burrito Brothers' first album. The lush instrumentation on "Sing To You" proves Wilson's gifted diversity. A ten-minute "For Every Ten" never wastes a second.
"You Can Have Me" indicates Wilson's ability to construct a radio friendly tune as does "Born to Be My True Love". Hands down, Frankie Ray's gem stands as "Dreaming". This song illustrates Wilson's rare ability to play heart-rending Telecaster twangs on a country-flavored tune that transcends any music category. The final track, "Masters In China" emerges as poetic cowboy zen few can replicate.
You've not heard the last of Jonathan Wilson...