Clay Cantrell
High on the Gallows [CS; House of Alchemy]

I did an inventory check the other night and discovered that House of Alchemy is just dominating my tape racks, second only to the fabled Hooker Vision. While I would never try to pigeonhole an imprint, I think it’s safe to say that Adam Richards has built his massive catalog on an underlying theme of noise music, releasing tapes by folks like Parishi, DeTrop, his own project Chapels, and others that exhibit the more forward-thinkers within the harsher realms of avant-everything. It’s a surprise then (or I guess it’s totally obvious) that a couple of cassettes that stand out among the ranks come in the form of delicate folk from a Southern songwriter named Clay Cantrell. A cloud hangs low over his second release with the label as the shy, quiet tunes make their way out of the tape shyly, quietly. It’s a very, very soft delivery we’re dealing with, Cantrell pitch-shifting his vocals up an octave at times to lend the songs a falsetto that keeps things a bit on the lighter side, which is nice — keeps the sadness of it all from weighing quite so heavily upon the brow. Campfire acoustic guitar strums and clenched-eyed, o-faced electric leads, some bass, and vocals. With the first tape I would have used Neil Young as a quick reference point, and now I’d lean more towards a sound like Six Organs of Admittance… but that’s all those are anyway: reference points. Cantrell’s got his own voice here, and even if it’s disguised in certain spots and sounds like it could crumble like a cracker at others, a sense of improving confidence and progress in the artist is clear and present with High on the Gallows — Cantrell continues to be a talented musician with a knack for the hushed beauty of a ballad that escapes so many of his contemporaries.


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