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Two Dollar Guitar - The Wear and Tear of Fear: A Lover’s Discourse

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Artist: Two Dollar Guitar

Album: The Wear and Tear of Fear: A Lover’s Discourse

Label: Smells Like

Review date: Aug. 31, 2006

As its title academically promises, Tim Foljahn’s latest installment of off-center roots songs is a cycle of love ballads. Foljahn explores the emotions and experiences many men (as this is definitely love felt through a male heart) go through as they look for, find, and, most of all, lose love. Like Willie Nelson’s Red-Headed Stranger, The Wear and Tear is not interested in the love itself, but in the aftermath, the torn and battered psyche of the rejected male. Where Nelson’s red-headed stranger searched for macho respite in blood and revenge, Foljahn’s narrator wallows through self-pity and sadness.

The weighty title and its weightier concept could have sunk the record, but Foljahn and Steve Shelley keep their carry-on baggage light. Aside from a prologue and epilogue that are just frivolous instrumentals, the arrangements are modest and the instrumentation is clever. Acoustic and electric guitars drift languidly. Slowly but forcefully strummed chords slide against skeletal melody lines, while a tasteful and at times exotic use of synthesizers fill out the background. “The Wild Night” swells toward but never reaches a climax as tumescent bass tones throb anxiously. Foljahn matches these muted, more passive hues with a vocal palette of stormy browns. He’s got a nasal whine, off-hand country ease, slippery karnatic chromatics and vulnerable cracks in his bag and he slides between them with aplomb, sometime in the space of a single measure. The production bathes all in a trebly patina, leaving the songs airy and spacious.

Such roomy arrangements support Foljahn’s generally non-specific lyrics. Only the portraits, the pining “Swamp Girl” and the bitter “4 O'Clock,” outline any actual situation. Foljahn seems to be digging for the archetype of the love song; the love in these songs though has no specific object, no peg on which to hang one’s sorrows. It is an everyman’s love, and hence it feels at times like no one’s love. The end result is a record that has a lot of charm and plenty of sympathetic moments, but ultimately stays distant, out of reach and awash in a fuzzy logic. Such a lack of commitment might be why Foljahn’s narrator will always wander, lost but not loved.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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