The record that made Lambchop nearly famous was Nixon in 2000 – a sophisticated mix of Americana, soul and country rock.

But it was the more subdued follow-up, Is A Woman, two years later that I still rate as the Nashville band’s finest moment.

This was not treated with the same enthusiasm as its predecessor so, for example, we got a lukewarm Pitchfork review (although the critic did concede that it may actually be a ‘grower’ and that his piece might come back to haunt him).

Is A Woman was the type of quiet, reflective album that forces the listener to sit down and pay attention and these are not records that you write about with a deadline to keep.

I’ve been waiting 10 years for Kurt Wagner and his band to make an album with a similar degree of somber beauty and grace. Their releases in the interim haven’t been bad but somehow failed to reach the same heights. Until now, that is.

It is early days yet, since it only came out a couple of days ago, but it strikes me that Mr. M  has the same melancholy artistry as Is A Woman – beautiful string arrangements, lilting piano refrains and Kurt Wagner’s gruff, half-whispered vocals weaving a magical spell.

Merge Records describe Mr. M well as “a collection of meditations on love and loss and the detritus of everyday existence”. It is dedicated to the memory of late friend and one-time collaborator Vic Chesnutt and ,while it never mentions him by name, it is a better tribute to this great artist than any covers album could match.

I don’t quite get the connection to a wrestling match in the official video to Gone Tomorrow but , what the hell, it’s a great song:

Related link:
Interview with Kurt Wagner (Guardian.co.uk)

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