Last year Daughn Gibson – real name Josh Martin (the pseudonym is a portmanteau of country singer Don Gibson and blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan) – released All Hell, a compelling amalgam of noirish blues and electronica that got him noticed by internet tastemakers. All Hell’s modest success led to a deal with Sub Pop; Me Moan is the first product of his union with the legendary Seattle label.
Gibson’s music has been described as ‘trip-hop Americana’. Those who can remember the grisly genre-splicing that was prevalent in the late nineties and early noughties – specifically the music produced by the likes of Fun Lovin’ Criminals and (worse) Alabama 3 – are likely to shudder at the term. Fortunately, only once on Me Moan does Gibson’s music match the nightmarish potential of the ‘country-hop’ genre: Kissin’ On The Blacktop – a horrible mélange of honky-tonk guitars and dated trip-hop beats.
The rest of Me Moan fares much better. With the help of guitarists John Baizley and Jim Elkington (of prog-metal band Baroness and post-rockers Brokeback respectively), Gibson has created a sonically lush record on which elements of rockabilly, dubstep, AOR and – yes – country and trip-hop are blended to create molasses-thick beds for Gibson’s voice.
One’s enjoyment of Me Moan is likely to depend on how much the listener enjoys Gibson’s voice. It’s a baritone that – happily – recalls Lee Hazlewood and – rather less happily – Crash Test Dummies’ Brad Roberts. It’s best suited to Me Moan’s slow-burning ballads, and rather less so to blustery tracks such as the widescreen opener The Sound Of Law and the aforementioned horror show Kissin’ On The Blacktop, on which it comes across as somewhat affected.
Another potentially divisive point is Gibson’s musical persona. Gibson is a handsome 32-year-old whose back story encompasses stints as a truck driver and a sex shop cashier. Much of Me Moan’s lyrical content accords with the image of Gibson as a man whose exposure to life at its seediest has cultivated a certain amoral detachment. On The Pisgee Nest, for example, Gibson sings unblinkingly about a seedy sexual encounter: “We took a little more, I must confess / We can’t do what you want for any less / The state trooper’s daughter and The Pisgee Nest / And there was a fight over who went next”.
Me Moan is at its most enjoyable when Gibson seems least concerned about playing up to his image and more concerned with nailing the tune at hand. Franco and Won’t You Climb, a pair of songs at Me Moan’s centre are the highlights. The former is a love song tinged with desperation and bearing the startling declaration “Give us a way for two lips to collide / I wish we had a kid who never wanted to die”, while the latter features by far and away the best hook on the album.
Me Moan is a flawed work, but even those who decide it’s not for them are likely to concede that no one else quite sounds like Gibson right now. With genuine originality at a premium these days, that’s to be wholeheartedly applauded.