Don't Cross Myrtle

Big Lazy

Independent release, 2015

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Probably the least surprising thing I learned this month is that Big Lazy composer-guitarist Stephen Ulrich spent the group’s recent several-year break composing music for TV dramas like HBO’s Bored To Death—because there’s nothing this trio’s music sounds like so much as the soundtrack to a particularly stylish noir film. Melding rootsy twang with a spooky, off-kilter, decidedly cinematic vibe, Big Lazy produces music that sounds like it was born to provide the atmospheric backdrop for clever, pointed dialogue full of pregnant pauses, set in dark alleys and seamy rooms.

With Ulrich and bandmates Yuval Lion (drums) and Andrew Hall (acoustic bass) leading the way, opening tracks “Minor Problem” and “Unswerving” are drenched in this gritty, ominous vibe, before “The Low Way” takes on a bouncier, sunnier feel that still carries a hint of foreboding to it; you know this mood won’t last.

And indeed, the aptly-named “Human Sacrifice” comes on like a surf-rock hurricane before breaking down into a Spanish-flavored interlude. The cultural allusions continue as two minutes into “Avenue X” Ulrich caps a moody muted trumpet solo with the instantly recognizable Mission Impossible riff—and it fits right into the quirky-slash-spooky atmosphere of the track.

“Night Must Fall” feels like a new genre of music: surf goth; it’s like a Booker T & The MGs tune reimagined by the Crypt-Keeper from Tales Of The Crypt. This atmosphere comes to a head with the again absurdly well-named “Bring Me The Head Of Lee Marvin.” This track sounds like the theme song to an early ’60s beach-horror B movie—Blood On The Surfboard or some such. The bleeding, screaming trumpet on the title track seals the deal; as they fall into a jazzy strut in the last minute, I’m left grinning at nothing.

Ulrich produces and the whole band handles the arrangements, which are consistently excellent. Using only acoustic bass and adding horns, organ and unusual percussion ensures the proceedings carry a vintage vibe that’s a constantly little bit eerie and off-kilter. Don’t Cross Myrtle is a delightfully unsettling album full of the kind of moody instrumental music that inevitably sets the imagination to firing. What sort of unusual, compelling stories would you set to music like this? It’s an album that leaves you wanting to know.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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