Steve Wilson. On music.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Gospel Music - How to Get to Heaven from Jacksonville FL (Kill Rock Stars Records)

Owen Holmes hails from Jacksonville, Florida. Wow, there’s one place I’ve never wanted to go. Already, I digress.

He plays bass for the Black Kids. They’re okay, I guess; hadn’t really given them much thought. If his (mostly) solo project Gospel Music is any indication, though, Holmes has a solid future as a singer-songwriter. And not one of those boring, self-indulgent ones, but more like an entertaining, diverting, poetic and self-indulgent one – hey, the last goes with the territory. Pretty much.

Recorded at home in the Sunshine state, How to Get to Heaven From Jacksonville, FL is a small treasure for anyone attracted to literate, self-abasing humor and primitive, but musical melodicism. Taking substantial cues from Lou Reed and Stephin Merritt, Holmes writes with pith and wit about romantic mismatch (“Bird/Fish”), romantic despair (“This Town Doesn’t Have Enough Bars for Both of Us”), romantic betrayal (“I Shared Too Much with Her”) and romantic resignation (“Bedroom Farce”). He self-accompanies these little morsels with sharp, spare instrumentation that concentrates on acoustic guitar, toy piano and ukulele, fleshed out with all manner of instrumentation, including the standard bass and drums (he even uses banjo without making me grab for my faux-Americana annihilator … a handy weapon, indeed). With limited chops, Holmes makes the most out of nifty little framing lines on guitar, bits and pieces of melodic guitar-age, stray elements of this and that, from the Velvets to the Ventures.