Scott Wainwright is one of those musicians who has tried and will try just about anything. He has performed and made music in bands and duos, he sings, raps, beat boxes, plays just about anything you hand him, makes blues, hip hop, (punk) funk, gospel, country, folk and what not. He also works with such a variety of people, it’s always a surprise who put what song together.
Every Man Has His Critics is no different. Wainwright is an experimenter at heart and this album is proof of that. Every song has a bit of a country/folk ring to it, a thin blanket if you will, but has different genres mixed in, mostly a combination of the ones mentioned above. No wonder Wainwright labels his latest work as ‘rural underground’, for these mixed genres raise mixed images of deserted, dry roads, big family dinners in back yards, empty bars and Clint Eastwood’s face.
About Wainwright’s live performances the Yorkshire Evening Post mentioned: ‘He is an interesting and talented character who inspires good spirits’ and ‘he manages somehow to pull off beat boxing, harmonica playing and foot stomping all at the same time.’
I would sure like to see Wainwright perform live, for it would hopefully add to the experience of what this artist wants to communicate. Listening to EMHHC, I can’t help but feel restless and confused. There is so much mixed in together, so many styles and little surprises that aren’t all good, I lose patience while listening. Also, the music simply lacks here and there. In Down the Line and Deal Me Another Hand harmonica and guitar sometimes can’t keep up with the rhythm of the drums.
I quite like how Kiss Like They Do In France starts out. The clapping and the acoustic guitar make it sound like this track could be music in an Alabama situated movie. Wainwright actually attempts to sing. Much more of that ain’t gonna happen. So enjoy this moment.
I am not going to lie. I don’t care much for Wainwright’s voice. The way he uses it anyway; talking rather than singing, raw rasping sounds. I’m all for alternative music, don’t get me wrong. But besides the way it sounds, it seems as if Wainwright is never quite sure how to use his voice, rhythm wise, volume and height wise. His improvisations may just as well be insecurity. This is one of the reasons why my two favorite tracks on EMHHC are the instrumental Whispers From The Undergrowth and There Will Be Praise.
Besides being instrumental, these tracks are deviated from the rest and I like them so much because of the charming instruments that seem to tell stories. Whispers From The Undergrowth starts out with rain, hot summer rain I imagine, a bit of soft thunder here and there. Then a banjo starts; a melancholic, perfectly non-country melody. You can see Wainwright sitting on a porch, being inspired by the rain, playing his gloomy tune.
There Will Be Praise is the last track on the album and my other favorite. Beautiful piano piece with a gospel sound, as the name suggests. You would expect voices to actually praise, but gladly there aren’t. It would be a crime to interrupt this wholesome piano tranquility. On a somewhat funnier – yet probably true – note: put this one on repeat and your life altering epiphany is bound to come.
If you still have hope for a bit of actual male singing, Out Into The Open is what you’re waiting for. Vocalist Ryan Mitchell Smith is a little delight to the ear.
The ninth track of EMHHC, Nothing to Lose Blues, is quite catchy and upbeat and frankly anything but blues. If anything, this is a gospel tune, bringing out Wainwright’s Christianity, with lyrics saying: ‘And when I’m out there, I’ll tell them Jesus day is coming forth. I’ll spend with him eternity, I’m no longer lost.’
Here For You brings out the guitars and partially makes up for the expected amount of punk like rock on the album.
The second last tune Blueberry Jam and Lemonade is the claimed live performance favorite, which I understand completely. Just picture: blueberry jam and lemonade. Who would not be happy having those, with some delicious toast and a bit of sunshine? Apart from the appealing title, the song is a nice feel good boy-girl collaboration, with one of Wainwright’s befriended female singers. Come on, just sing along, you know you want to.
All in all, mixed feelings about this album, maybe as many as the genres on it.
But hey, every woman has her critics too, you know?
Andrea de Jong