The lot of a critically f�ted but commercially ignored singer-songwriter is often a hard one, and Michael Weston King is a prime example of an artist who has been chipping away at the coal face for longer than should be reasonably expected without the slightest sniff of mainstream acceptance.
Weston King has released two live albums already during his solo career, and for the sake of variety Crawling Through The USA sifts through a number of radio appearances during the singer’s last North American tour. The inclusion of idents and soundbites adds to the low-key atmosphere that pervades the album.
This is a resolutely downbeat album that mirrors the sentiment expressed by Weston King on the sleeve notes: “I’m not feeling the lure of the road so much”. The songs themselves, which include versions of three previously unreleased tracks, are stripped down to the simple format of Weston King alone with his acoustic guitar.
There is a note of stoic desperation throughout that chimes with one of Weston King ‘s artistic heroes, Townes Van Zandt. Indeed, the standout track is a cover of Van Zandt’s Marie that rivals the original in its stark power and serves as a timely reminder of the late Texan songwriter’s brilliance.
Weston King ‘s own songwriting has been on a steady ascent since his days with The Good Sons, and the versions of two of his finest songs A Decent Man and I Fall Behind on Crawling Through The USA reveal an artist willing to experiment. Here, both tracks lose the defiance of their studio incarnations as Weston King reflects openly about regret and inadequacy. It’s a brave stance to adopt but one that sounds more and more pertinent after repeated listens and chimes with the current social climate. Of course, Weston King’s last studio album was called A New Kind Of Loneliness so it is a logical progression.
That superb collection also provides another highlight, a ballsy reading of Lost that finds Weston King in fine voice. He is better when strident, losing the smooth roll to his vocals that occasionally veers into Ralph McTell territory. Further highlights from that album, It Will End In Tears, Let The Waves Break and From Out Of The Blue, also crop up here in stark versions that allow Weston King’s lyrical genius to shine through.
The album ends on a surprise note, featuring a bonus recording of country singer Lou Dalgleish performing The Good Sons’s track Cosmic Fireworks to the accompaniment of a haunting piano. It serves as a tantalising taster of the soon to be released country duets album from Weston King and Dalgleish.
Crawling Through The USA is a fine marker for one of Britain’s most undervalued songwriters, although the general mood of the album indicates that Weston King appears to be taking a step back from the live stage to concentrate on studio work. Where he goes from here will be interesting.