Mick Harvey

One Man's Treasure

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While it's true that Bad Seeds musical director Mick Harvey has made solo records in the past, he's never made one quite like this. With the exception of a string trio, Harvey played everything himself on One Man's Treasure. But this is also something more than a one-man-band recording; with this outing, Harvey establishes himself not only as a fine composer, but as a songwriter. The album opens with "First St. Blues," in which the protagonist is a beggar seeking a dime toward a glass of wine and demands not to be pitied. Piano and electric guitar languidly introduce the changes and Harvey's baritone -- full of emotion, empathy and a documentarian's sense of truth -- begins his tale. It's haunting, but not sophomoric. The strings, keyboards and an acoustic guitar carry Harvey's voice in the moving love song "Come into My Sleep." But there is plenty of drama in his music as well. The tension that mounts in the swirling "Demon Alcohol" is almost unbearable. Country music, folk and subtle rock & roll color all of these songs. Country music has a rich history in Harvey's native Australia, and he uses it though it's portrayed through the prism of the cinematic -- check "The River," with its dark Telecasters twanging to accentuate the verses, or "Hank Williams Said It Best," which is kissed by Ennio Morricone's sense of atmosphere. Ultimately, One Man's Treasure is a collection of redemption songs, whether that redemption is wrought through love (found or lost), grief, disaster, or personal discovery. All of it is brought to bear by a completely unsentimental vision articulated by a songwriter who understands how a story is to be told. There is just enough air in this mix for the listener to breathe; it offsets the tight, precise, and wondrously limitless creativity Harvey exhibits here.

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