Simon Bonney

Forever

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Drawing on a fine range of performers (including Congo Norvell singer Sally Norvell and Ethyl Meatplow/Geraldine Fibbers frontwoman Carla Bozulich on background vocals), Bonney creates a mystic, almost mythic atmosphere on Forever. Much like the final efforts of Crime and the City Solution, but with an even more haunting, nearly religious atmosphere, Bonney's music conjures up the feeling of a West that never was, where hoe-downs and wild dances are replaced by contemplation, lyrically and musically. While it's facile to simply say Bonney does for country what fellow expatriate Nick Cave does for the blues, there's a similar sense of reverence and transformation at play. Bonney's deep but not cavernous voice suits his images and songs perfectly, eschewing over-the-top drama for a more considered approach. Main collaborators J.D. Foster, on guitars and mandolin, and Jon-Dee Graham, on lap steel, dobro, and bottleneck guitar, contributed excellent performances while avoiding musical clich├ęs, just as Bonney looks to avoid simply aping Nashville or neo-traditional country both. "Ravenswood," Forever's stunning opening number, sets the overall mood faultlessly; Bonney's call for the rain to come down on him backed by a slow, deceptively powerful arrangement where the guitars sound like flashes of lightning in dark clouds. Low drums boom in the distance, as what almost sounds like an invocation unfolds. Many songs move at a faster clip; Forever isn't trudging in its pace, instead combining various influences and touches from the vocal/electric guitar/violin combination of "Now That's She's Gone" to fairly lush rock/country fusions. This said, even more energetic numbers as "Like Caesar Needs a Brutus," as the title alone indicates, grapple with questions of love and belief with strength, and nothing completely lets loose just for the heck of it. Then again, that's not the intent of Forever in the first place.

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