Mick Turner

Don't Tell the Driver

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Though Dirty Three guitarist Mick Turner has done loads of session work and played with bandmate Jim White in Tren Brothers, he hasn't released a solo offering since 2002's Moth. Don't Tell the Driver was written and recorded over a four-year period at Australia's Big Moth Studio. While it retains his singular guitar style -- an elliptical meld of implied melody gradually coaxed from fingerpicked chords and restrained strummed strings -- all tolled, it's unlike anything he's done before. Turner employs a full band in delivering a vocal/instrumental song cycle that elegantly and expressionistically reflects on desire, loss, and the fleeting nature of time. He is aided by vocalists Caroline Kennedy-McCracken, Oliver Mann, alternating drummers Ian Wadley, Jeff Wegener, and Kishore Ryan, bassist Peggy Frew, and brass and other instruments. "All Gone," with its punchy electric rhythm guitar, acoustic leads, Rhodes piano, melodica, and organ moves directly into the rhythm section. Its brooding intensity suggests that this is the aftermath; that everything has already come apart, making this album a Möbius strip. From here it’s built from the ground up. Fat tom-toms usher in "Sometimes," and guitar and melodica de-center them; when Kennedy-McCracken enters, she bridges the disparate parts, imparting the nature of a seemingly limitless integrated universe held between two lovers. On the 6/8 title track, a shuffling drum kit, simmering bassline, backmasked guitar, and keyboard tracks are kissed by a spare piano. Kennedy-McCracken's call-and-response vocals reveal a bereft lover's loneliness. Instruments and sonics intrude and disperse, adding tension and drama; it erupts with brief and subtle dissonance. Turner's guitar is the voice of the absent other answering across the atmospheric divide. "Gone Dreaming" quotes intermittently from Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," though it's too mercurial to remain there long; brass enters from the margin before giving way to guitar and violin. Mann's disciplined baritone dominates the first part of "Over Waves" as Kennedy-McCracken's backing vocals adorn the refrain. Turner's guitars (acoustic and electric) set the band reeling at the midpoint, and the track swirls with color. "The Navigator" touches on jazz with its trumpet and brass, but piano, cello, and guitar build a harmonic rock foundation. "Long Way Home" showcases an intense ebb and flow, as the band pushes the tune's melody to the breaking point. "The Birdcatcher" is a loosely constructed tone poem with cello at its center. "We’re Not Going Home" deliberately quotes -- rhythmically and melodically -- from the Beatles' "Two of Us" (whose refrain is "we're going home..."). "The Last Song" builds to a melodic yet near-cacophonous intensity before unraveling gradually, whispering itself -- and the album -- into silence. Don't Tell the Driver is Turner's most fully realized and ambitious record. Its elements reflect on the varying shades and stages of desire. Here he successfully creates a convergence of harmonious and dissonant sounds, tensions and spaces, which reflect the subtleties in the complex emotions that construct such a powerful force.

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