Saturday, September 20, 2008
Micah P. Hinson – Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (2008)
Full Time Hobby
One thing I’ve always noticed about Micah P. Hinson is that he is like an old man trapped in a young man’s body. His previous two albums had a grizzled air about them. I’m usually reminded of some old grouch sitting on a porch unveiling tales of woe and heartbreak to a crowd of wide eyed children. May I remind you that his first two albums ( Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of progress and Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit) were recorded when Hinson was in his early twenties.
Now 26 and married, one can say that Hinson has gotten older and his earlier efforts sound juvenile compared to ‘…Red Empire Orchestra’ This his most mature (and that’s saying something) album yet and, thankfully it’s his best one too.
I have to admit, that despite the fact that I am a fan of this talented singer-songwriter, I tend to notice that usually some songs on his albums just don’t stick. I forget them in an instant and need constant replaying in order to get them wedged in my brain. Finally ‘Red Empire is the first Micah album which has struck me instantly, each song is a winner and more importantly has a recognisable tune. It is a more delicate album than it’s predecessors and a bigger emphasis on the use of strings. Gone are the rangy guitar epics such as ‘Don’t You’ or the gypsy-ish stomp of ‘Diggin’ a Grave’ and although, in theory loss of variation may make ‘Red Empire’ less exciting, it brings out Hinson’s knack for a melody and makes the album a more pleasurable to listen so his use of limitation actually works. It is also the first time you can call a Micah P. Hinson record beautiful. The use of sepia toned women in the cd booklet matches ‘Red Empire’s’ overall feel perfectly. Another I thing I noticed is that Hinson has worn his influences on his sleeve in quite a few places around the record, especially the Roy Orbison aping ‘You Will Find Me’ and I see absolutely nothing wrong in it as it enhances the album’s charm.
“Red Empire’ is just simply brimming with great songs. The Sea Shantyesque ‘The Wishing Well and the Willow Tree’ or the jaunty ‘When we Embraced’ are just two of eleven (or thirteen if you are an early purchaser of the record) tracks which gave me chills and demanded repeat plays.
To end on a somewhat clichéd note this is an album that depicts an artist at the peak of his powers and able to manipulate his sound in such a way that it can seduce and entrance at the same time. If albums were meals then this would be the aural equivalent to a delicate dessert, savoury and long lasting memories after the initial taste.