Friday, November 14, 2008

"Easy To Say Bon Temps Rouler" /
Geraint Watkins

The veteran keyboardist of Nick Lowe's longtime unofficial band -- which isn't exactly what you'd call a full-time job these days -- Geraint Watkins hasn't done much solo work, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn he's released a new album only (only!) 4 years after his under-the-radar gem Dial W for Watkins. This new one's titled In a Bad Mood, but that's quite an understatement -- Geraint's gone off on a deeply rueful tangent this time, with song after song lamenting love lost, chances missed, and screw-ups regretted. Luckily, he hasn't lost the easygoing rollick of his soul- and Creole-flavored pub-rock sound.

Though he's a Brit -- a Welshman, in fact -- Watkins seems to have drowned in a vat of Sazeracs as a kid and emerged an honorary bayou crooner. He leads off this opening track with a reluctantly drawn-out guitar flourish, then mournfully recites his main verse -- "You can dance the night away on every single Saturday / You go out and have your fun, and I'll just be the lonely one," in a morosely moseying downward melody. There's just enough of a wink in there that you don't mind the cliched lyrics -- this song is all subtext. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound -- here's he moping around, while his ex is partying away, and watching her makes him feel even crappier. You've got to wonder if she's laying it on especially thick just to punish him.

And soon, as if the song can't help itself, it sidles into a shuffling two-step zydeco tempo, with a vibed-up lead guitar that would work just fine at a backcountry Louisiana roadhouse. He says he's too miserable to subscribe to the unofficial New Orleans motto ("let the good times roll," for those of you who don't parler francais) -- for him it's more like "let the heartaches begin / Let the teardrops fall" -- but it sure sounds to me as if the music is already curing him. "'Let the good times roll'? / Hollow is my soul," he protests, adding "I'll never dance again / Not even now and then / No never never no more." Meanwhile, the song is jigging merrily along -- he's dancing already.

Geraint's got this warm gravelly voice that's perfect for this sort of song -- it's a lived-in sort of voice, like a relic of too many cigarettes and too much rotgut whiskey. A great piece of songwriting? I don't know, but it's catchy as hell, and the performance is so genial, you can't help loving it. This guy is one of the most likeable artists I know of -- check him out.

Easy To Say Bon Temps Rouler sample

1 comment:

Fusion 45 said...

I read a little about him in Mojo last month. He has been on my hit list. Your review is very well written.

Music Junkie @ Fusion 45