20 September 2019 (released)
29 October 2019
Bob Dylan and Lou Reed have both had monumental careers in music. Both happen to be world-class poets but that alone does not make a famous rock star. If it did, Rimbaud and Ginsberg would still be adorning the t-shirts of the masses and poems would be read on 24-hour poetry FM radio stations. Their music also hooked a generation upon its inception and influenced all generations to follow. Why? Their music by normal standards might not be considered.....good. Haphazardly strummed chords on an old acoustic backing half-sung, half-spoken vocals which at its best could be described as “semi-melodic” and at worst brought comparisons to an overloaded wood chipper. However, there was something in that bohemian style that resonated with all those looking to oppose the mainstream. There was no sheen of over-produced pretentiousness, no operatic perfection. No rules.
Brazilian singer-songwriter Luiz e oz Louises follows in their illustrious footsteps with an album that has the community centre dance sway of Dylan at his most quaint and the vocal delivery of Lou Reed, cool and calm with just enough honk to let you know he's not just speaking but singing. Luiz came to New York to make the record, following the tire treads of his forebears. His producer Ben Rice brought in several members from Norah Jones' band, bassist Sabine Holler from Barrie the Band and Sean Lennon keyboardist João Nogueira to give a subtle lift to his basic pieces.
Luiz begins the record duetting vocals with his guitar on 'Please Everyone'. His delivery is one of raised inflection questioning. He even uses Bobby Zimmerman's classic tropes of “You do” this and “you say” that to line his verses. A technique that can't help but bring a slight air of sarcasm and contempt, even if not intentional. This phraseology helped Dylan come off like he knew something everyone else didn't, like he had an inside track on your idiosyncrasies and foibles. The band joins in with an indie-hipster groove, that tambourine accented beat that made The Lumineers career before finding its way into commercials for sporty compact cars.
The centrepiece of the album is the nearly nine-minute 'No More Shaking Hands'. The track begins quite inauspiciously again with just Luiz and his guitar. He shakes his Dylan inflection for a more low-key Reed vibe. Two minutes in, Nogueira joins Luiz' earnestly strummed waltzing guitar with a modern gospel organ. The band breaks their patient silence at 3 1/2 minutes, joining his chorus: “It's hard to be lonely”. To play out the slow-burning track, he revisits Dylan's classic “blow into it real hard” harmonica. The folk equivalent of Joplin or Franklin belting out a fevered scream.
Luiz e oz Louises draws pretty heavily on his folk heroes on Life's a Cigarette, though it doesn't ever feel like a rip-off. It's probably only those most astute students of the 60s poets that will pick up on all the little devices that he borrows. The music can be an acquired taste because it isn't presented with perfectly autotuned pitch and filled with instruments in every nook and cranny. It's bare, it's open. It's honest.