The American South is a place full of eccentric visionaries, but Nashville, Tennessee is one city that has long devoted itself to art in the name of commerce, churning out music (mostly ordinary, some brilliant) by the yard, not unlike gingham or fruit roll-ups, and the Nashville philosophy frequently seems to be, the more ordinary and less challenging the tune, the better. However, Music City does have a thriving creative underground, and for decades one of Nashville's outstanding mad geniuses was Dave Cloud, a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who upended rock & roll and rhythm & blues traditions as he brewed a grand cacophonous burgoo, with his stream-of-consciousness lyrics and inspired bellow of a voice as the key ingredients. Holding court at the Springwater Supper Club & Lounge, Cloud and his band the Gospel of Power tackled anything from detourned garage rock to karaoke ballads as the frontman sang with an instrument that suggested both Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart, and had as strong and unique a personality as either. Cloud died in February 2015 from complications related to melanoma, not long after he completed his fifth studio album, and Today Is the Day That They Take Me Away is as fitting a farewell as anything he recorded, an 85-minute epic full of murky grandeur. While Cloud's surreal lyrics sometimes drift from theme to theme within a song, his dominant obsession is women, and whether he's pining for an "alabaster girl" in "Damn Damn Damn Damn," longing for "Angelina," wondering about unfaithful partners in "400 Girls," or reworking Buddy Knox's "Party Doll" to his own specifications, love has Cloud's mind messed up in a wild and compelling manner. The scrappy backing provided by Cloud's Gospel of Power is a great match for the frontman's sonic and thematic worldview, loaded with garage band grit and punk-infused noise but with a healthy chaser of Southern soul that meshes nicely with the bent passion of Cloud and his songs. Dave Cloud was a unique talent whose work was not for all tastes, but there's a mad joy and untethered emotional freedom in Today Is the Day That They Take Me Away that would be the envy of nearly any artist, and on that score, this album puts much of Nashville's better-known product to shame. If you want to honor the legacy of this one-off musical romantic/troublemaker, giving Today Is the Day That They Take Me Away a spin will doubtless invoke his spirit and puzzle your neighbors all at once.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming