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Possessing the eye and heart of a poet, Exene subverts lyrical expectations to create an atmosphere of both strain and empathy, speaking to the romantic in all of us.
A sometimes sparse, sometimes exuberant blend of folk, deep country and wide-open spaces from this co-founding member of punk legends X. Subdued, but no less edgy.
Somewhere Gone, Exene’s first solo album since 1991, is a sometimes dreamy but always intimate, circuitous passage through folk and country; subdued, but no less edgy. Invoking other artists who travel easily between the worlds of words and music like Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, Exene’s lyrics and immediately recognizable, simultaneously fragile and totemic vocals carry all the passion of X without all the loud.
Possessing the eye and heart of a poet, Exene subverts lyrical expectations to create an atmosphere of both strain and empathy, speaking to the isolated and forsaken romantic in all of us. Hers is a world of the natural and the elemental intermingling with our lives and loves. The gravityless drone of “Surface of the Sun” or swimming in the wind to escape the hurricanes of “Somewhere Gone” paint our struggles in an ethereal light.
Throughout, lines such as Be still my beating bat wings (“Where Do We Go From Here”), I’m trying to make an honest mistake/out of you (“Honest Mistake”) or You can have what’s left of my forever (“Fine Familiar”) cast a murky light on the sentimental. Simple poetic juxtapositions heighten the dislocation that haunt us. Glass full of empty (“Sound of Coming Down”), Blackness and limelight (“Somewhere Gone”) as well as the album title itself speak to this tension.
Sonically, Somewhere Gone, which was produced by Exene, is a sometimes sparse, sometimes exuberant blend of folk, deep country and wide-open spaces. Exene’s guitar playing (she plays on most of the songs) and the somber cello/viola of the late Amy Farris (Dave Alvin’s Guilty Women, Alejandro Escovedo, Kelly Willis) give the title track a sense of urgency, while the far-out west reverb and back pew organ of “Sound of Coming Down” are as liberating as a freefall. On the only song not written by Exene, an ancient ballad of the hills “The Willow Tree,” she duets with Amy and the chill and ache of the ages is in it; the hope that lies in the dirt. Also lending ample their handiwork is Joe Terry (Skeletons, Morells) on barrelhouse piano, Lou Whitney (Skeletons) on bass, Dex Romweber (Dex Romweber Duo, Flat Duo Jets) on keyboards, Cindy Wasserman (Dead Rock West) and Jason Edge on guitar.
Surface of the Sun