Delaney Davidson: “Bad Luck Man” Review
New Zealand songwriter Delaney Davidson seems to draw much of his inspiration from misery and tragedy. In the style of the American folk/blues tradition, Davidson tackles heartbreak and woe with the zeal of a man who might find the reaper an agreeable companion. And while his new record Bad Luck Man is, like his past work, rooted in the American South, this time around Davidson found his dread revelations no further away than his front door. Though the singer lives in Switzerland and spends much of his time on the road, the recent earthquake in his home town of Christchurch inspired much of his new material.
And while it’s difficult to parse out just which songs were inspired by what – the overall theme of Bad Luck Man is such that any one of these tunes could be ascribed to a tragedy. Country guitar and theremin inflected “River of Misery” seems to be about a girl, and the hopelessness of its cause seems to be summed up in the line “there are always two answers / and both of them are no.” Similarly “Windy City” and “You’re a Loser,” speak of relationship woes. The latter seems particularly gut wrenching as its Dear John message of “you’re a loser / and your losing me,” hits like a vicious sucker-punch.
Many of the other tunes’ inspirations are far less straightforward, but the current of sadness remains strong. “How Lucky You Are” is a barroom ballad that evokes futility by utilizing the famous lines from the English nursery rhyme “The Grand Old Duke of York.” “It’s So Good” sounds like a grief stricken paean to an old friend, set to spare piano chords, trumpet, and squealing viola. Both tunes originally appeared on Harbor Union, a benefit album for the city of Christchurch after the earthquake, and it’s not too difficult to hear the real grief of pain experienced firsthand. Davidson also includes a couple of equally stricken covers – Abner Joy’s “I’m So Depressed” (with full band backing) as well as the traditional tune “I Saw the Light From Heaven,” both excellent and appropriate choices.
Throughout Bad Luck Man, Davidson delves down through a bluesman’s collection of sorrowful themes. In the end though, while Davidson finds little to be happy about, he certainly doesn’t come off as nihilistic. Though you have to look hard for them, there are glimpses of hope scattered throughout the singer’s works. “It’s So Good” for instance, while ostensibly about a destroyed city, still shows abundant signs of life. “I’m so glad to hear you are still singing / I’m so glad to hear your bells still ringing” Davidson sings of the town, for once letting tones of gladness creep into his voice. Davidson’s truck in life may be sharing sadness and misery, but if even he can find a glimmer of joy out of the Christchurch tragedy, then perhaps he’s not as melancholy as he might seem.
— Jon Behm
Buy Bad Luck Man here
Delaney Davidson: Site