You might well have seen Bobby Lee on a stage in the last few years as a touring member of Brent Rademaker’s cosmic cowboys GospelbeacH; an association instantly giving him kudos in this neck of the woods. While he actually makes his home in Sheffield there’s a strong indication he dwells in a Joshua Tree, or maybe Sedonia, of the mind, an impression suggested by last summer’s Shakedown In Slabtown, and now further emphasised in this new sequence of Origin Myths.
Shakedown In Slabtown gleaned praise in all the right places, attracting comparisons to J.J. Cale and Bruce Langhorne, involving musicians with Sharron Kraus and Jim Ghedi connections, and would in normal circumstances have found him promoting it on select stages throughout the winter and spring. However given we long waved goodbye to ‘normal circumstances’ there was little for him to do but pivot towards his inner resources and glean what he could from his own personal plague hiatus.
“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear – the earth remains, slightly modified. Heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break….I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.”
Thus wrote Edward Abbey, the drunken desert mystic, in what might stand as an entirely plausible take on the advent of COVID-19, and its possible consequences. These words function as the underpinning for this brief but compelling set of ‘open sky/scorched earth improvisations’; both cosmic and kosmiche, sometimes skeletal, but ever rich and haunting; making up Origin Myths.
Themes for imaginary westerns when all the actors have long left the screen and the vistas are veiled with a shimmer of heat-haze masking the view to infinity. Recorded to four-track with a dazzling array of instruments – bass, electric, and acoustic guitar, drum machine, organ, dulcimer, lap steel – the tracks melt into other, and you into them, so that repeatedly, of a sudden, you’ll shake yourself from another reverie.
While song-titles serve as mantras; ‘Broken Prayer Stick’, ‘Rule The Summer Clouds’, and ‘Four Skies Above’; you drift in the wake of the wandering strings. Lingering in the tentative repetitions of ‘Looking For Pine And Obsidian’ – which we must be very close to – or following the hoofbeats of the ‘Fire Medicine Man’. Slightly thrown by the more emphatic ‘Impregnated By Drops Of Rainbow’ – a possible escapee from Cafe Exil – ‘The Badger And The Locust’ resumes a calming simplicity before we find our moment of the rose in the ‘Enchanted Mesa’.
At a time when the best escape route is inwards, the faded, worn, and spiralling tracks of Origin Myths present a much-needed map.
Available from 5th March on Bandcamp