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Don Cavalli, CrylandHere’s an album that came and went a couple of years ago, but I keep getting sucked back into its strange vortex. It answers the question, what happens when a fairly twisted French dude records a loving tribute to his favorite American musical influences?

His name is Don Cavalli, and I’m surprised his latest release, “Cryland,” didn’t get more notice (although the British rock mag Mojo ranked it #12 of their 50 best albums of 2008, noting that “Cryland” is “appealing low-fi and iTunes eclectic… 21st century psychedelic”). If you’re looking for brilliant lyrics or multiple layers of meaning, go somewhere else. This is all about deep, swampy grooves and gutbucket guitar played through overdriven tube amps. In other words, my kind of music… River/Don Cavalli

Cavalli’s casual approach to songwriting reminds me a lot of J.J. Cale – a true master at creating an overall mood and timeless vibe that transcends the material. J.J.’s done this better than anyone for about 50 years. And he’s still bringing the goods, with the possible exception of his recent collaboration with Eric Clapton (I’m not sure if Clapton has another good album in him). Here’s the intro to one of my favorite cuts from Cale’s 2004 release, “To Tulsa and Back”: New Lover/J.J. Cale

Cavalli’s another restless explorer of vintage sounds and riffs, with the same minimalist approach to guitar playing and songwriting as J.J., but maybe a little more edge and energy. Yeah, you’ll probably think you’ve heard some of these lines before: “Moon is a-risin’, sun is sinkin’ down low, wind is a-howlin’, been down lonesome with gloom.” But it’s hard to resist sturdy little tunes like the next one, especially if you share my weakness for rough and rootsy guitar: Vitamin A/Don Cavalli

Don CavalliThe quirk factor also is fairly high on “Cryland.” And I guarantee you’ve never come across songs quite like New Hollywood Babylon and other oddball gems by Cavalli. It’s like someone stuffed all of these American influences – blues, country, rockabilly, cajun – into a Euro/Franco processing machine and hit the random switch. It’s nice to hear those influences subverted with such “aggress-shawn,” as he sings on one tune. I guess I’m also a sucker for strangled syntax, wha-wha guitars that seem to come out of nowhere, trashcan rhythms – not to mention whacked-out numbers like this one… Wonder Chairman/Don Cavalli

Make no mistake, this guy can play. But it’s hard to find much of substance written about Cavalli. From what little I’ve found on the Web, it appears he spent a number of years playing in rockabilly bands.

With “Cryland,” he seems to be moving away from more obvious tributes to his American idols, and closer toward establishing himself as a true original. His next album lands in 2011 – hopefully we’ll be around to share some of it with you.

Talk about creating a mood… I love this stark, ethereal video for River. I’m sure it involved a small budget, but a fair amount of choreography.

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Showing 21 comments
  • Rixaidan

    Well forget what I said about only having only one song on my iPod…… just bought this amazing album. I think Moby listens to Cavelli regularly or is that just me?

  • admin

    I would think Moby’s a fan… Was also trying to guess what song saved your life. Hoping it wasn’t anything by Harry Chapin or Jim Croce.

  • keena

    Love this! A definite new purchase.

  • chuck a.

    I don’t know his new album, but I thought his rockabilly stuff was lacking. I couldn’t listen to one whole song without skipping to the next. Good guitar player, great voice, but the lyrics and music were all cliche. Added up to about 50% of what it tried to be.

  • admin

    Give it a shot… your son’s a big fan.

  • Rixaidan

    Okay Quinn, here’s a clue…. No Googling

    I recall the yellow cotton dress
    Foaming like a wave
    On the ground around your knees
    The birds, like tender babies in your hands
    And the old men playing checkers by the trees

  • admin

    Alright, I didn’t google… Waits?

  • Rixaidan

    Silly boy.
    MacArthur Park. Richard Harris.
    Worst. Song. Ever.

    All the sweet, green icing flowing down…
    Someone left the cake out in the rain
    I don’t think that I can take it
    ’cause it took so long to bake it
    And I’ll never have that recipe again
    Oh, no!

  • admin

    Wow… I’d like to hear Waits polish that turd.

  • Jack

    Love “Going to a River”. It’s like Ralph Stanley gone electric.

  • Rixaidan

    Or Moby meets R.L. Burnside.

  • chuck a.

    My son’s taste? I’ve spent 31 years trying to flush the Quine out of that boy.

  • admin

    At least he kept his chops

  • Rixaidan

    A phrase is coined: I’m gonna flush the Quine outta you boy.

  • Mary

    Well, better hear from a Frenchie lover. I’m flabbergasted this guy exists. Wish he’d infuse more of the French music ethos, which is usually full of turds! This Quine says the album’s a keeper.

  • busterdouglas

    Hey Chuck A.!
    You bringing your smartass comments to this board too!?
    You better not forget about the literary thrashing I delivered to you earlier!
    I want that autographed piece of garbage!!

  • Joli Darling

    I know MacArthur’s Park w/o Googling also. It’s such a god-awful BAD song, it’s god-awful good! I actually enjoy dancing to the Donna Summers version to this day. I mean, a person has to allow for a little levity in their life once in awhile & of the worst possible kind. For that’s what make life so truth-is-stranger-than-fiction good.

  • Joli Darling

    p.s. And YES… Tom Waits really should polish that turd. It would take it to a whole new level! I love how he says “Fo’ wussssss!” in the Theme From Westside Story! It’s one of the few impersonations I actually can do quite well, thanks to where I grew up. Where I grew up does not lend itself to accents at all. Of any notable kind!

  • Joli Darling

    p.p.s. Finally… the actual reason I landed here… Is this the same Don Cavalli that was in Don Cavalli & the Sons of Man who did songs like King Jesus & also, Don Cavalli & the Two-Timers? That being said, my question is: Did he get saved first & then backslide or was he of the world & then got saved? Don’t mean to offend anyone here with religious rhetoric or acting on presumption. Just curious. I mean yeah… it wouldn’t be the first time terms like “two-timing” have been equated with men who are project the appearance of being spiritual. And even the great Bob Dylan seemed to have bouts with being born again & unborn again too. Not that Don & Bob can be likened to one another musically even remotely… I’m just genuinely curious about the spiritual component to Don Cavalli’s life & times.

  • Joli Darling

    Loving “Cryland” BTW! Wondering why it didn’t get more notice too.

  • admin

    Thanks for the many comments, Joli. I can’t speak to Cavalli’s spirituality. I’m also not sure if he’s responsible for those other two bands, or why Cryland didn’t get more notice. Would love to hear your Tom Waits impersonation. Wouldn’t dance to MacArthur Park in public. Does that about cover it?

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