Published Apr 02, 2015The scourge (or saviour) of Steeltown is back. Lee Harvey Osmond is the mutant brainchild of Tom Wilson, he of Junkhouse and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings fame, and third album Beautiful Scars is his/their best and most coherent yet. Given the strength of their previous record, The Folk Sinner, that's saying something.
LHO is far from a one-man band, as Wilson has always called upon talented peers to collaborate. Those co-writing here include Colin James (on three tracks), Josh Finlayson (Skydiggers), Jesse O'Brien, Thompson Wilson (Harlan Pepper) and Andrea Ramolo. The latter four also play and/or sing on the album, joined by the likes of Ray Farrugia (Junkhouse), John Dymond (BARK), Aaron Goldstein, Darcy Hepner and Alan Anton (Cowboy Junkies).
Beautiful Scars was produced, recorded and mixed by Cowboy Junkies main man Michael Timmins, in typically clear but never slick fashion. The high-calibre help frames but never over-shadows the core strengths of Lee Harvey Osmond, namely Wilson's rugged, dredged-from-the-bayou-depths vocals and oft-bleak songs that fuse psychedelia, folk, blues and soul elements. He gets down to the nitty-gritty with an epic seven-minute opening cut, "Loser Without Your Love," one sporting a trippy vibe and spooky sonics, incorporating horns, resonant guitar, keyboards and flute. That segues into "Blue Moon Drive," a noir-laced number with a David Lynch-ian feel. Wilson later dials it down effectively with the sparse, pedal steel-inflected ballad "How Does It Feel?" and gently haunting "Come And Go," while "Planet Love" is a superior re-working of the former title track of Wilson's 2001 solo album.
There's real musical intelligence at work here, as demonstrated by the intriguing combination of pedal steel, horns and Ramolo's harmony vocals on "Hey Hey Hey." Such touches will give this superb album real staying power. Long may Lee growl. (Latent)