Blessing & Cursing
A woozy balladeer is how north coaster Jimmy Dowling has been described, and it’s a tag not far wrong. Gorgeously mournful, Dowling’s newest cut brings to the fore this wooze, 15 tracks that shuffle shambolically along, a quiet beauty inherent to all, his strength as a songwriter marrying with his husky, downturned voice to create something truly special.
Based deep within the tangled briar of country music, Dowling takes inspiration from the sea on Blessing & Cursing, continuously referencing surfing, fishing, “plumes of white spray ripped off the tops of swell in the wind”. Song titles like ‘Beachcomber’, ‘Trawler’ and ‘Deckhand’ highlight this inspiration, the latter a haunting spoken-word piece with just a smattering of eerie guitar.
Dowling brings with him a troupe of exquisite players in Matt Walker (who in addition to adding guitars and mandolin, produces the album), bassist Grant Cummerford, Shane Reilly on pedal steel and the extremely subtle Hamish Stuart on drums. Liz Stringer, Van Walker and Lucie Thorne add backing vocals throughout. As well, the late and great James Cruickshank adds guitars, percussion and pipe organ on a couple of numbers, recorded before his death last year. Blessing & Cursing is sublime in its poetic nature, a fantastic record.
Samuel J. Fell