The list of personnel for Jake Xerxes Fussell‘s fourth album is fuller than previous ones but Good and Green Again is possibly the most spacious of his yet, with James Elkington‘s production keen to keep the sound light and focused. Jake’s use of the acoustic guitar instead of his old Telecaster on more tracks than usual also adds to this feel, which is present from the start. The first single, Love Farewell, sees Jake in fine voice, with his usual laconic vocal style present but rather hushed, something echoed by Nathan Golub’s ghostly pedal steel and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s lovely backing vocals. It’s all done very classily, and there is an undeniable confidence in the level of subtlety in the music.
Things get slightly more fleshed out on Carriebelle, with Anna Jacobson‘s horn being more prominent, adding depth in the second half alongside a low electric guitar line and percussion. Still, the slowed tempo of the piece and the melancholy nature of the vocal lend this one a sense of poignancy and even sadness. Further on, the original instrumental Frolic sounds closer in mood to the music on Jake’s masterful Out of Side album, being reminiscent of traditional dance tune 16-20 from that album. Far darker in nature is the current single Rolling Mills are Burning Down, a traditional song documenting the fall out of economic disaster. Elkington’s haunting piano and dobro is gorgeous here, emphasising the downbeat nature of the song.
Immediately lifting the mood, however, is another original Fussell instrumental, this one utilising Libby Rodenbough‘s wonderful violin playing. What Did the Hen Duck Say to the Drake? is a lot of fun, with that dobro again noticeable, here providing quirky charm to a feisty and buoyant tune. Following is The Golden Willow Tree, the most recognisable traditional song here and the longest, at over nine minutes. Here soft bowed strings support a gently picked acoustic line through a narrative describing the exploits of a daring but ultimately doomed cabin boy sent to sink an enemy ship. Also known as ‘The Sweet Trinity’, some versions of the song save the boy, but Jake’s is less optimistic and has the boy drown at sea, as the story most commonly ends.
Again adding light to the shade is In Florida, Jake’s final original instrumental of the album and one that stays in the same vein as What Did the Hen Duck Say to the Drake?. A jaunty tune with some fun undulating guitar playing, this one is as sunny as the title suggests and leads us neatly into the final track, Washington, probably my pick of the set. This fascinating little piece is built from words from an anonymous source found on a rug in 1890. Almost an instrumental, electric guitar and piano are structured around one lyric line before horns, bells and strings see it out. It’s an unusual song and one that sticks in the mind long after the fade out. It also brings to a close another spell-binding album from the inimitable Jake Xerxes Fussell.