Stuart A. Staples Leaving Songs

[Beggars Banquet; 2006]

Styles: lush folk from a baritone who’s (apparently) seen some things
Others: Leonard Cohen

I've got a running list of people I would love to have breakfast with simply because of their marvelous voices. I would love to wake up and pad into the kitchen to share the first meal of the day with Tom Waits, Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones, Anthony Hopkins (hell, even Marv Albert or Brent Musburger), just so I could hear each of them say completely ordinary things like, "Please pass the Corn Flakes," or "You burnt my toast," or "Why did you bite that woman in the back, Marv?"

Former Tindersticks frontman Stuart A. Staples now has an open invitation to that breakfast. The people sitting next to him crunching on muesli at my imaginary little table all have the ability to transform a middling production into something captivating, simply with the rich sonority of their voices. Be it Bruce Almighty or a midseason game between the Clippers and Raptors, the actors and commentators above lend weight and meaning to even the most ordinary lines. Staples does much the same in these ten honeythick songs, with lyrics that offer few novel insights on the titular theme. He packs those ordinary words with pathos, thanks to the autumnal gravitas of his voice and the artful accompaniment of strings, guitar, bass, brass, and two other vocalists. He sounds bitter, but not completely disillusioned with the loves and experiences he is leaving. His memories sting and salve all at once, and he conveys this with a suave mix of melody and melancholy. "I know which way the wind blows," he sings, "it blows me back to her." Each time Staples delivers the rather commonplace line, it carries new emotional cargo: he's pissed, pleased, dejected, thrilled, forlorn, happily fallen. He's good.

It's a pleasure to be embraced by a record this pretty and soulful. Even better, I'm never sure if the arms wrapped around me are tender, tortured, or both. That's a thrill I'd love to chat about over breakfast.

1. Goodbye To Old Friends
2. The Path
3. Which Way the Wind
4. This Road Is Long
5. One More Time
6. Dance With An Old Man
7. That Leaving Feeling
8. Already Gone
9. This Old Town
10. Pulling In To The Sea

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