Congo Norvell

Abnormal Anonymous

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Taking up where The Dope, the Lies, the Vaseline left off, Congo Norvell delivered a much more widely available record via Jetset. With a great new backing lineup, including first album guest Sclavunos as the full drummer throughout and, as guest vocalist throughout, former American Music Club leader Mark Eitzel, Powers and Norvell once again create a collection of mysterious, attractive songs from the darker side of life. Foetus sideman Brian Emrich on bass and theremin and Firewater keyboardist Paul Wallfisch fill out the remainder of the band, while sometime Nick Cave/Epic Soundtracks collaborator Liz Corcoran handles strings on a number of songs. A past musical collaborator of Powers is saluted throughout -- Gun Club leader Jeffrey Lee Pierce, whose untimely passing resulted in two of the album's best performances. Opening number "She's Like Heroin to Me" is, in fact, an old Gun Club cut, delivered with an appropriately queasy, noir feel, Sclavunos' sax adding to the atmosphere as Norvell and Eitzel transform the lyrics into a creeped-out duet. "Body and Soul," meanwhile, is a Powers/Norvell number specifically written in tribute to Pierce, with regret and a snappy edge blended together excellently. Eitzel's work throughout will be of interest to both his fans and those listeners here solely for Congo Norvell -- his burnt, passionate ache suits the band's songs perfectly, making for a great contrast in style to his solo work. "The Blue Sky" is another strong Eitzel/Norvell duet, sounding like one of Lee Hazlewood's epic country numbers gone to hell more than once. Wallfisch and Norvell wrote two of the album's best cuts: "Dark Eyes," a slow, dank number with low, steady rhythms and piano cutting through the gloom, and the music hall-gone-wrong "Good." Another cover, a lovely version of Travis John Alford's "Warm Tonight," adds to the haunting appeal of Abnormal.

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