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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Drunken Prayer

Into The Missionfield

Review by Larry Toering

Drunken Prayer are a unique band with a sound that has been described as a “holy blues,” but on their second release they go even further into blues and even some rock, as well. Primarily they're an alternative country band in nature, though, with all of the above and a  foot in folk as well. This is really not made to fit any specific genre. It's in a class all its own that way. Band leader and composer Morgan Geer is not the kind of front man you hear everyday. He is a humble and soft-spoken, yet very blunt artist, and that is a major part of his musical charm, as well as a testament of his individual art. On this new release he takes things a proverbial step beyond that of their debut. There is everything from glockenspiel and fiddle, to Hammond B3 and M102 organ, with harmonica and five of them sharing  percussion duties. There is also pedal steel by Joel Meredith, as well as  sax, coronet and even flugelhorn on display. It's a strong departure from their previous one, yet still identifiably them. It's just deeper, more imaginative and quite a bit more varied. There are a few more musicians on this follow up as well, including the great Jose Medeles of  The Breeders added on drums and percussion. Feel the sorrow and the joyful wit all wrapped up in one as they take you Into The Missionfield. It's on a different side of the road, but a very enjoyable place to dwell.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Brazil
The title itself is inviting, and this is one story well told as Geer carries on about “what ifs,” to a smooth semi acoustic backing track with a sweet bluesy electric solo. The percussion hints at what is to come, as it kicks up in places with crashing cymbals that add just the right touch to the arrangement. The character and depth of his voice just works wonders over this well composed tune.
Ain't No Grave
This is where things already start going in a direction that is a little harder and more rocking than I expected. It's a killer track with a simple upbeat groove. It doesn't take much to impress with a song like this. It's a perfect number that begs for more of the same. Don’t get used to it, though because, as I said, this is a varied album with a thread that calls for surprises.
Always Sad
If that wasn't fun enough, even though the title doesn't suggest it, this is another playful number. There are more excellent guitar fills on this well balanced number with a simple but very honest vocal line. It has an extremely youthful sort of wisdom to it that is both playful and serious.
Maryjane
This one is more of the alternative country vibe for which Drunker Prayer are known. It has another sad (but playful) lyric, surrounded by some beautiful fiddle parts. All of the players here deserve a mention, as they help define the DP sound.
Take A Walk
Keeping things playful, this is yet another characteristic number with as much meaning as they can squeeze into such a title. The consistency is unbeatable so far, as the tracks just seem to be at one in their differences.
I Saw It With My Own Two Eyes
The fun continues through this number, as it's another witty tune with the usual storytelling charm.  They lyrics mention the freaks coming out at night. This features another lovely backing track that contrasts the vocal melody perfectly as they move toward something completely different.
The Missionfield
The title track has an epic tale approach for all it’s worth. That isn't exactly their style, but it must be mentioned, as this musically nothing like the surrounding tracks. That difference not only helps it stand out, but it makes an overall statement and shows just where the fun stops and the art begins. Geer has outdone himself here, as this is one classy tune with his signature written all over it. It seems to be a solid effort to come out with a meaningful hit, as this has the most crossover appeal to it. It’s a brilliantly delivered performance, every note of it. This is where the disc really moves the soul in one fell swoop and the drunken prayers make all intended sense.
You Walk
This is a nice follow up of sorts in the same vein as “Take A Walk,” but altogether  it's more humorous and a lot more musical. For some reason I am reminded of pioneering artists such as Woody Guthrie, as the approach is very alike in its simplicity and charm.
Balloons
Humor just runs in this band, as Geer shows what he can do with another excellent piece of music without losing the plot. This has more of a lyrically hippie feel, over one of the more musically atmospheric compositions. Among everything here it's probably up there with the most there is to enjoy on the disc. There is also a hint of Simon and Garfunkel quality surfacing on this one.
Beachcomber
Interestingly enough, I am reminded once again of Paul Simon, although I can't exactly nail it to one thing. This is yet another fantastic piece on every level as these cuts all burn brightly, one way or another.
Never Tends To Forget
It all ends too soon with yet another well provided message delivered with passion and that dry sense of humor to be found throughout ...the Missionfield. The backing vocals of Naomi Hooley come on stronger here than elsewhere. She sings beautifully. Geer gets his point across once more in the shape of lyrics such as: “don't say forever / forever tends to forget.” Drunken Prayer have arrived, and they're warm and ready for the world with this well arranged, mildly surrealistic collection of thoughtful gems.

 

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