Frankie Stubbs

Frankie Stubbs

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This EP does not deserve its obscure, tricky-to-find 10" vinyl status. This acoustic guitar and piano masterwork is a naked and personal reflection, a clear window into the emotional underside that informs Leatherface's unstoppable impact, beyond mere hot songs and playing. Like Louis Armstrong singing the teary "Black and Blue," there's an ever-present tender side in Stubbs' serious heart-wrenches, where his insides are laid bare with nary a bellow, with that sore/gruff voice of his. Stubbs has flashed this side before; beyond his so-so solo 7" of 1995, there are the acoustic renditions of Leatherface classics and covers on EPs. But those were regular versions sans bass and drums. Here he reconstitutes "Dead Industrial Atmosphere" as a sad folk song, letting the chords ring with space. You can feel the dispirited death of commerce in the lyrics and its effect. Likewise, unlike Leatherface's too-jokey, throwaway look at Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love," here it's sweet and romantic. And Nick Cave's "Ship Song" works better with the piano murmuring aloft the acoustic. It's more poignant than on the blustery full-band version from Horsebox. This piano/vocal mix, as presaged by the rustic "Shipyards" on The Last, is also the blueprint of "Old Elvis," the cream of three new compositions. Over melancholic upper-keyboard tickling, Stubbs finally breaks out an emotional howl on the chorus, bawling "I would give my life away" repeatedly until it overcomes you. A visceral moment without need of volume and beat, it blows away 1,000 folkies and punkers searching for the gift of such voluminous sincerity. Sometimes the most silent cries are the most moving. It's a rare artist at his most unguarded and emotive. Three a.m. and the wine is gone -- this is what's left.