We all have a favorite artist that flies under the radar, with releases that go barely noticed, yet we'll continue flying the flag and telling anyone that listens how incredible this particular band or singer is and how y'all are nuts for not getting on board. Willy DeVille is one of those artists for me. His latest album, 2008's Pistola, didn't, to my knowledge, even get a proper release in the U.S. It's a hit and miss affair but the highs will keep me listening and the lows will never make the ipod.
DeVille's voice shows the wear and tear of years of hard living but summons the tough backstreet soul of spanish harlem with a raspy croak that can still thrill, especially on the first half of the record. The opener "So So Real" invokes the gritty urban charm of Mink DeVille's 1977 debut Return to Cabretta while "Louise" pitches it's sweet alt-country blues somewhere between John Prine and The Felice Brothers and is sweetened by the understated lilt of Chris Lawrence's subtle pedal steel guitar. "I Remember The First Time" is another in a long line of beautiful lovelorn, pleading ballads that have dotted DeVille's career.-
The album takes an unfortunate turn into psuedo-Waits-ian talking blues of "Stars That Speak" that has none of Waits oddball charm or special brand of weirdness. And the less said about the spoken word piece "The Mountains of Manhattan", the better.
This post was inspired by an email exchange with my Teenage Kicks partner, the yin to my yang, the chocolate to my vanilla, the right to my left, the Boulevard Pale Ale to my Yeungling, Michael Atchison, who claimed he can't hear "Storybook Love", despite an avowed fondness for The Princess Bride.
Willy DeVille - Louise (from Pistola)
Willy DeVille - Storybook Love (from The Princess Bride OST)
Mink DeVille - Just Your Friends (from Return to Magenta)