Matt Krefting - "John the Baptist" (I Couldn't Love You More)
If there’s anything to be certain of with the recent reboot of Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace imprint, it’s to not be certain of anything they’ll release. With a roster that could at best be called scattershot, it’d be hard for anyone who didn’t know Moore’s tastes to get a grip on the wide range of the label’s output; vinyl editions of no more than a few hundred for groups like Oren Ambarchi’s ur-tardo project Menstruation Sisters sit like a lump of shit on the floor, far out of the reach of bratty Jemina Pearl’s forthcoming LP, the pleasant pop of Tall Firs, the buzzsaw rock and roll of Awesome Color, or even 16 Bitch Pile Up cassettes. While select releases get the “upstream” treatment, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone outside of the curator who has any level of enthusiasm about the catalog as a whole.
Yet it’s that eccentricity – coupled with a few household hangs with some wine, as mentioned in the liner notes – which leads us to a supersession album by relatively unknown vocalist Matt Krefting, whose debut I Couldn’t Love You More hearkens back to the double-whammy of many ‘60s and ‘70s pop album releases: a studio full of crack musicians (no Muscle Shoals here, but Sunburned Hand of the Man playing straight, and J Mascis being J – no complaints can be had), and a repertoire of covers open for honest interpretation. Having kicked around for years in a handful of experimental and drone outfits (Rotch, anyone?), “the mighty Kreftor” heads up an unlikely set of covers – good ones, too; the Band’s “Sip the Wine,” Jeff Simmons’ “Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up,” Richard Thompson’s “Calvary Cross,” a pair of John Martyn songs right in the middle. Another of the selections, Doug Sahm’s “It’s Gonna Be Easy,” all but sets the tone for the proceedings. Sahm’s original rendition was borne under similar circumstances, with a bunch of big name talent, from Flaco Jimenez to Bob Dylan, not to mention most of the Sir Douglas Quintet, convened at the behest of Jerry Wexler to kick off his signing to Atlantic in style. Not only do the musicians here nail the shambling, bittersweet tone of the original, their rendition more or less necessitates the curious to dig out the original, and the knowing to pull out their copy of Doug Sahm and Band anew, just like a good cover version should.
Krefting isn’t a perfect vocalist by any stretch, as evidenced by wooden reads of “Sip the Wine” and Bill Fay’s “I Hear You Calling.” He doesn’t have much in the way of dynamics, aside from dude-centric belting, and can’t offer the subtlety these tracks require. Elsewhere, what he’s got carries the selections in fine fashion, particularly on the bluesy “Lucille” (check the original, again; its big-room lineup, rounded out by Frank Zappa on lead guitar, makes another good case for these kinds of records) and on George Jones’ ragged “Things Have Gone to Pieces.” On these numbers, Krefting’s given to emoting at the level that songs like these require.
Overall, though, the selections presented, and the level of playing – check out newcomer John Townsend, on half the tracks, blowing the lids off the ring-modded read of Jerry Garcia’s “To Lay Me Down” and offering a refreshingly Catholic take on Martyn’s “Go Down Easy” – are the framed picture of justice. What’s accomplished here, in 35 minutes that rush past, is akin to a wiser friend of yours sitting you down with a stack of records for an all-day listening sesh, or a record store clerk schooling you on the songs that are soon to become a part of your life. And depending how fixed you are for friends of this caliber, or shops worth the weight of the material presented here, this one could open more than a few doors for you.