Gill Landry Offers Drowsy Meditation on Heartache
There is a wounded man at the heart of Love Rides A Dark Horse. The fourth solo album from singer-songwriter Gill Landry (formerly of the Old Crow Medicine Show) is unafraid to be frank about the flaws and shortcomings of love and the dull, hollow pain it leaves in its wake. Although the artist’s candor is admirable, often moving, “dull” seems to be the operative word for much of the album’s runtime.
The “break-up album” has been done to the point of cliché – almost to the point of inevitability – by a certain type of musician, yet it remains a bold undertaking both for its requisite emotional nakedness and, recently, for the challenge of adding something new to the timeless, sometimes tiresome dialogue of heartache.
Mr. Landry is up to the challenge. He is a fine and perceptive songwriter and his malaise, delving on outright nihilism, is palpable. From it, he is able to wring some exceptional lines. You won’t find a clearer or bleaker mission statement than in “Berlin,” in which Landry sings that in love, “you lose more than you ever hope to find.” Perhaps the album’s most optimistic song, “The Woman You Are,” draws its meager feelings of positivity from a jaded couple bound most strongly by their shared disenchantment and misanthropy.
“Remember when you asked me where we were going
And I thought that I followed you
Traveling blindly without knowing
If love was enough to get through.”
Aside from awkwardly employing near identical metaphors in two separate songs (“Broken Hearts And Things We’ll Never Know” and “Scripted Love”), the writing on Love Rides A Dark Horse remains at this high level.
The album suffers, though, in its staid arrangements, which grow swiftly tedious. The sound is pleasant in its sparseness, with the lonesome and almost omnipresent steel guitar a highlight, but even its effect is eventually blunted by redundancy – and “pleasantness” seems at odds with the subject matter anyway. Every chord lands where you expect it to, the pace is glacial, and the music too often simply fails to engage. The strength of the lyrics is remedial but only to a degree, as Landry’s seasoned voice keeps to an emotionally cool, low register, his delivery drowsy, almost bored. It keeps even his most impactful lines from landing with the force they deserve.
In this way, the actual sound of Love Rides A Dark Horse acts like a balm, comforting the singer and negating the intensity of his distress. Its depth rewards close listens but Mr. Landry isn’t fighting for your attention.