Every once in a while you stumble something a little different and an album that reaffirms your belief in the potency of the independent release. In David Midgen case it’s not so much the wide array of musical genres – spanning, jazz, blues, Americana and soul – as the way he bring his arresting baritone and effortless vocal range to bear on a range of eclectic lyrics and rootsy self penned songs. The result is a surprisingly cogent and accessible album that ebbs and flows as it delivers moments of musical excellence and emotional clarity.
David Migden is based in the UK, but hails from Little Rock,Arkansas and you suspect the imagery of his narratives harks back to his formative years in the south. There’s a troubled undertow to some of his reflective songs, but refreshingly, David is adventurous enough to showcase his Lou Rawls meets Gill Scott Heron style vocals into non traditional musical outlets. And it’s that sense of adventure that makes this record such a triumph.
The band album is credited to David Midgen and the Dirty Words, a word play that reflects some of his lascivious lyrics and the fact that the magnificent musical arrangements and their faultless execution are very much a band effort. He opens with an arresting funky title track, slipping into falsetto mode to deliver the definitive line ‘I’m killing it by degrees’, as a stylish confirmation of his excellence.
You would imagine such a song and the following staccato funk of ‘Blues’ – a title more germane to the lyrical meaning that genre – being on a Bootsy Collins or Mudbone record. He then veers into a mariachi trumpet opening for the bass heavy shuffle meets New Orleans jazz of ‘Old Joe’, and dips into the acoustic ‘Shel’, a narrative led ode to the late American poet/cartoonist Shel Silverstein.
Migden has a talent for eclectic couplets even if the full meaning of the song sometimes evades the listener. But it all generally works well on the back of some subtly interwoven words and snappy arrangements.
In the space of the first 4 tracks he shifts from industrial funk to Harry Chapin mode. And he doesn’t stop there, slipping into a scat intro on ‘D.A.W.T.P.W.M?’ suggesting he’s an overworked muso looking to get his rocks off.
‘Killing It’ is a multi faceted album, but it’s on the more restrained pieces like the piano led ‘Heaven’ and the meditative quasi spiritual ‘The Line’, that David best reveals himself as a magnificent singer with something to say.
The excellent production captures both Migden’s eloquent phrasing and clever word plays and is only a couple of songs short of being truly outstanding. Well worth seeking out. **** (4/5)
Review by Pete Feenstra
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