This split came in from a label out of Kentucky, Louisville is for Lovers Records and I love the whole idea they put together for this 7" series. This summer they are putting on a series of shows where the bands featured will have a split single they'll give attendee's with the price of admission. 4 shows, 4 7"'s: in total, 8 bands. You can subscribe to all the shows beforehand and then pick up the single at the door...for less than $10 bucks a show. Genius way to get excited about the music and then walk away with a record from local bands. Lucky you there's a few left from these shows and they're selling them at the Louisville is for Lovers online store.... including this split from The Mack and The Party Girls.
The Mack Side is singer/songwriter Jeff Shelton who plays nearly everything who's joined by a rotating cast of musicians this time Pete Townsend (!) came over from England to play drums. This side is mastered by Paul Oldham, who I've noticed has been mastering a bunch of singles from all kinds of micro labels like LIFL, and subdued songwriting like this. Gold Robot, Empty Cellar I remember worked with artists mastered by Paul.
'Love Habit', the first one on the A-Side has a real quiet, low, restrained feel, which seems to be the standard for The Mack. He's a real storyteller, narrative driven artist. He seems to just need the most basic, hardly heard backup, loose jazz-rock behind him. Always lots of space around everything, huge pauses to breathe and get acquainted with the whole picture... it's the situation Jeff designs, a classic formula that's worked since the beginning of this sort of thing. Dateless and like Jason Molina, or Vic Chestnut, I can imagine an alien planet where they could take whatever was considered an instrument and write a song.
'Free No More' has Jeff continuing the bare bones instrumentation, hardly a guitar melody but massive bassline this time (that could just be the vinyl) with a slight warm organ, sort of a jazz feel to this one. Jeff has just a hint of nasal Dylan to the vocal but definitely the same dense imagery, and clever unexpected rhyme and the folk rock style of the master and captures that concise simple sentiment, proving you don't have to write anything more than exactly what you mean.
I don't wanna be free no more / I wanna belong to you
But to put it like that is the hard part, Jeff gets to the point of the track without an epic chorus or fancy finger picking. The sentiment drives the song, this kind of songwriting based around a strong vocal melody captured so clean, leaves you a little raw. He's got nothing to hide behind.
A slow whiskey sipping, porch and a rocking chair, sun going down music, which is how I imagine all the land of Kentucky to be.
Shelton is also a part of the B-Side's group, The Party Girls which features his brother on vocals and bass. I've since found out the band is no longer recording and playing around and these are two unreleased tracks from their '90s/00's output, 'In the White House' and 'Checks Cashed'.
'In the White house' has a free jazz, experimental feel with electric guitar muted notes with that harmonic 'twing' that rides the sound out into into feedback. It's all held together by a main groove bassline and brother John belts out his vocal, punctuating the stops and starts of this complex rhythm.
'Checks Cashed' looks to be a solo song from member Ben Herning, and gets way out there into the experimental zone, home recording style. Far off distorted sampled vocals that start overlapping over a barely audible guitar bassline, repeating 'Checks cashed' which works as a rhythm for the main vocal. The guitar screams into feedback for a second and it really gets quiet, maybe once the check is cashed, well, that's it, it's spent right on the rent. The guitar changes, and starts coming out of the background, completely free form vocals, layers of tracks changing speed, getting a little dark. The howling and bird screech starts, all far far off in the distance right up to the end.
It's great to hear the range of Jeff's work, and that those slow direct folksongs can be informed by these experiments, and freeform work. it only makes me like the A-Side more.
All on marble purple vinyl from Louisville is for Lovers Records.