Vic Chesnutt: At the Cut LP (180 grams)
Vic’s first album for Constellation, North Star Deserter (2007), featured the members of Silver Mt. Zion and Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto. Together with Nadia Moss and Chad Jones, this same troupe reunited for At The Cut, and was again recorded by Howard Bilerman at Hotel2Tango in Montreal.
At The Cut picks up where North Star Deserter left off, with the explosive opening tune “Coward” displaying all the epic soaring thrust this band is capable of. From this bracing beginning, the album quickly changes temperature and temperament, settling into what is arguably the most intimate, pensive and heartbreaking work of Vic Chesnutt’s career. Cowardice, courage, mortality, tenacity, defiance, mourning and memory are its themes. Throughout the album, and even on the two tracks that blister and blast, there is a lyrical intimacy and directness, a searingly raw honesty to Vic’s voice and words, that finds no parallel in his body of work.
For an album so overtly shaped by ruminations on mortality, by a man from Georgia USA who certainly knew of what he sang, it is both refreshing and unbelievably heartwarming to hear how Vic sidesteps any of the obvious Southern Gothic tropes, lyrically and musically. No vaulted arches, gaping abysses or burning fields here – no ‘voicing’ of the preacher or the devil, no putting on airs.
Vic managed to sing so authentically and wholeheartedly from and about his sense of place (the South, the wheelchair, 21st century America) because he refused to sentimentalise any of it. He railed against his personal fate without bitterness, without apology, with a sardonic and sometimes angry poetics of the passionately humanist and secular variety: wholly framed by the back porch, championing a humble wisdom, a sincere ethics (without moralising) and a natural literateness; certainly permitting a wisecrack or three, but never allowing for anything hackneyed or cornball or fake. At The Cut is a bona fide classic by a man who was better positioned than most to sing it strong and true. He is missed.