Friday, October 16, 2009

"Flirted With You All My Life"



It's taking me a little while to really get into the new Vic Chesnutt record, At The Cut. Unlike his previous collaboration with the Godspeed You! Black Emperor/Silver Mount Zion folks and Guy Picciotto (Fugazi)—2007's North Star Deserter—the record ends up sounding to my ears as less than the sum of the contributors' parts. Where that first Constellation record saw the backing musicians sparingly supply Chesnutt's songs with a cinematic grandeur, this one has moments in which the elements feel at odds. Chesnutt's striking vulnerability at times feels stifled or obscured by the weight of the other players' embellishments and crescendoes. Part of what makes Chesnutt's best songs so powerful is his deft entwining of anguish and humor; and despite my love for the Godspeed contingent, I never took that apocolyptic crew for real appreciators of humor or irony.

A few songs on At the Cut work marvelously, though, and "Flirted With You All My Life," in particular, is a pure Chesnutt gem, as heartbreaking yet ultimately comforting as any of his best work. If you've ever lost someone close or grappled with suicide, the lyrics are sure to hit home. The conflation of death and romance is handled so exquisitely. I'd say it ranks up there with Johnny Cash's rendition of Trent Reznor's "Hurt" as far as glimpses into the heart of human mortality go. But this is maybe even more poignant because the words—and fears and feelings—are very much Chesnutt's own. And yet, they are ours as well...

"Flirted With You All My Life"



I flirted with you all my life
Even kissed you once or twice
And to this day I swear it was nice
But clearly I was not ready

When you touched a friend of mine
I thought I would lose my mind
But I found out with time that
Really I was not ready

[Purchase At the Cut HERE.]

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