Colour Revolt, a promising young band from Mississippi, has already had to face some significant early career challenges. After shooting out of the gates when a major label picked up their first EP, the band moved on from there releasing nothing beyond that EP to arrive at Fat Possum releasing their first full length Plunder, Beg and Curse. Although that album showed great promise, the band left Fat Possum soon after its release.
Right as Colour Revolt began the process of recording their next album, the five piece was winnowed down to Sean Kirkpatrick and Jesse Coppenbarger. That duo, with some session help, released the Colour Revolt's fine second album The Cradle last year. The Cradle represented a strong creative recovery for Kirkpatrick and Coppenbarger as they seemed to find more rather than less stability from the band member attrition.
As we look forward to what Colour Revolt has to offer on their next LP, El Obo's Oxford Basement Collection provides glimpse of how strong the band's future might be. El Obo is the name Jesse Coppenbarger has chosen to use for solo recordings that he began making over the years dating back in 2004.
Coppenbarger describes El Obo as an outlet for music that didn't quite fit the louder guitar sounds of Colour Revolt. Oxford Basement Collection gathers these songs he sporadically cut over the last few years, largely by himself, but with help from some other Mississippi-based musicians including Steven Bevilaqua of Flight on guitar and Jr. Kimbrough’s son Kinney on drums.
Although much of the press materials surrounding this release seem to be intentionally low key, Oxford Basement Collection shows a depth and breadth that Colour Revolt's own recordings previously only hinted at. Keep in mind, the songs here seem to be less than fully formed, but purposely so, in order to show larger sonic ideas as opposed to polished recordings. This homemade vibe works to provides a sense of humanity that can often be lost underneath layers of rock guitars.
The entire atmosphere of the record feels wonderously experimental keeping the listener on edge wondering what sounds might come next. Throughout, there is also near constant feeling of the South's deep summer heat, leaving behind a languid pacing and a liquid sensibility utilizing all of the South's seasonal forms of that element - from the cool reprieve of lakes, rivers, and oceans to its less refreshing forms like rain, humidity, and sweat.
The album kicks off with "W8 Off My Mind" sounding like daybreak, a fine beginning to this sonic adventure. "On The Eighth Day" follows with noisy Grifters-styled fuzz. That Memphis group seems to be a strong touchstone for Coppenbarger, and he is wise to draw from their well of criminally underrated recordings.
Coppenbarger follows a beautiful violin-led ballad ( "The Ordinary Woman") with "JCs vs the DRs", country-tinged tune, layered with aching pedal steel and interspersed keyboard swells, which bring a knowing sense of sadness. In listening to El Obo, one can't help to hear Coppenbarger drawing from the spirit of Alex Chilton, especially his Big Star-era recording adventures with Jim Dickinson.
"Everyone of the Hungry" provides a crucial centerpiece to the album as its unstable marriage of sounds reveals Coppenbarger's deconstructive aesthetics. The next three songs, "Young Ones" with its Simon and Garfunkel folk sounds followed by the pair of harmonica led tunes ("This Is Love" and "2nite") show that Coppenbarger can comfortably belong in the company of the South's young cadre of Dylan-influenced songwriters, most notably A.A. Bondy. This is high and deserved praise.
The album's final two tracks provide an interesting juxtaposition as "Vrgn Evl" and its lusher pop sounds lead into the completely raw and stripped down guitar/vocals of "BTK". Taken together, these final two songs serve as a reminder of how long and wide the creative journey El Obo has provided its listener.
Only rare albums deserve this level of dissection, but El Obo's Oxford Basement Collection reveals all of the talented palette of Jesse Coppenbarger. Despite their often rocky recording path, Colour Revolt has always shown great promise. With Oxford Basement Collection finally seeing the light of day, one can only hope that the solo sounds of Jesse Coppenbarger can become part of the next Colour Revolt recording.
Coppenbarger, Kirkpatrick, and Colour Revolt have successfully emerged from a difficult early career path showing that their talent and gifts are still present. Greatness may well await looking at their recorded work as a whole. They merely need some more time and further recordings to bring it to bear.
- Jim Markel
EXPLORE FURTHER INTO SWAMPLAND...
Dixie Fried with The High Priest of Memphis Mojo Jim Dickinson
(This interview with the legendary record producer was one of his last before his passing)
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(Swampland's hub page for all of our Memphis content)