The Dickens Campaign: Oh Lovely Appearance (2013)
Cornetist Kirk Knuffke's soulful golden-toned lines remain a constant throughout. The trio executes quaint balladry with the delicacy of floating through a cloud, but guitarist Jesse Lewis' distortion-laced solo spots offer a jazz-fusion undercurrent on several pieces, sparking a sense of newness. With a mix of traditional pieces composed by rather obscure artists and originals, they highlight the expressive harmonic content of early roots music.
On Dickens' "I Should Have Known," the band imparts a bluesy swagger as Lewis turns up the heat via steely lines and tricky fingering maneuvers. With "Hallelujah," the band gels to a medium- tempo jazz-rock pulse, also yielding a downhome vibe. They follow it up with Knuffke's "Twice My Heavy," where Lewis' fuzz-toned and phased treatments up the ante as Dickens' helps raise the intensity level a few notches with peppery rolls and swashing cymbals hits. Here, Knuffke's brash, upper-register phrasing, activate pumping choruses and an in-your-face mode of operations.
The Dickens Campaign raises cultural awareness, but even if you take Lomax's legacy out of the picture, the album stands on its own. The musicians intertwine a sense of antiquity with a hip musical portraiture, underscored with the customary highs and lows, while tearing it up on occasion. Hence, the music breathes as the album's LP-length timeframe sparks a concise portraiture that is not overcooked or superfluous by design: they aim to entertain by enacting a new spin on the dusty old roads previously traversed.
Track Listing: As I Went Out For a Ramble; Roustabout Holler; Poem; My Baby Likes To Sing; Oh Lovely Appearance Of Death; I Should Have Known; Paul Motian; Hallelujah; Twice My Heavy; Waiting.
Personnel: Deric Dickens: drums; Kirk Knuffke: cornet; Jesse Lewis: guitar.
Record Label: Self Produced
Style: Free Improv/Avant-Garde