The Echoist

Andrew Adkins

Elephant Seed, 2020

http://andrewadkins.net

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/04/2020

“Pre-Newport acoustic Dylan” was one of the several points of reference employed in my review of Nashville singer-songwriter Andrew Adkins’ 2016 album Glass Castles—so naturally Adkins begins his new album The Echoist in full electric, decidedly post-Newport rock-out mode. “Mostly Ouroboros” takes on a White Stripes / Black Keys vibe right out of the gate, a delirious psychedelic guitar-drums freakout decorated with skronky sound effects and off-kilter synths, a sound that’s half carnival and half apocalypse. “One last kiss before I cease to exist,” he sings, managing to sound simultaneously sunny and forboding.

The Echoist was composed and recorded in quarantine with every note of the basic tracks played and sung by multi-instrumentalist Adkins, and that slightly delirious and altogether mercurial frame of mind leeches into every one of these tracks. The fact that Adkins, formerly of both “cosmic blues-rock” trio Mellow Down Easy and “gritty rock” quartet Lions For Real, once shared the stage with Sturgill Simpson feels especially relevant on an album where Adkins appears equally at home with Nashville country-rock, Philly soul, Muscle Shoals rhythm and blues, and reality-warping electric psychedelia.

So yeah, the Dylan thing probably won’t come up again.

On the heels of that memorable opener, “Vagabond Shoes” takes a sharp left turn with a classic Motown sound anchored by a supple, understated guitar line, handclaps and layered vocals. “Shoes” also dispenses with the metaphorical and offers a direct line into Adkins’ COVID-rattled state of mind: “Locked inside where the shadows and light collide / Is there anyone out there / I got those isolation blues / In these vagabond shoes going nowhere.” And it’s not a one-off, moving right into the straight-up psychedelic rock of “Thunder Perfect Mind” as flanged-out guitars flail behind Adkins’ distorted, desperate vocals: “There’s a tear in the atmosphere / There’s a crack in the armor / We’ve seemed to fall out of frequency / Nothing seems to make sense anymore / It’s a state of emergency / A comedy and a travesty.” “Ruination Suite” completes this pandemic trilogy, mixing a loping country-western rhythm with warm guitars and naturalistic vocals as Adkins advises: “People spreading things you know are a lie / It’s best to always question why / You better check your facts, Jack or it might be your demise.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That right there makes up half of this eight-song, 30-minute album, and roughly half of the musical approaches employed by the chameleonic Adkins. The tartly-titled “Prince Charming Slit His Wrists” sets the crash-and-burn ending of a relationship to shapeshifting, playfully disjointed music that sounds a little like the Flaming Lips invited Brian Wilson and the Mavericks over and brought along a tank of nitrous oxide. “On and on this wheel keeps on turning,” sings Adkins in the eye of the storm, “Your behavior’s most peculiar and concerning / If it smells of smoke another bridge is probably burning.”

Next up “Bitter Pills” offers another tale of dissolution and more galloping psychedelia before “Hazel Barricade Eyes” kicks you into a fresh new universe, a country-tinged mid-tempo ballad drenched in guest Tim Rogers’ cascading pedal steel. Adkins closes things out with “Save The Day,” a gritty, guitar-heavy r&b number with a strong Prince flavor, especially when he launches into falsetto.

“You can keep all your faces covered in masks / I’m gonna walk and I’m not coming back” sings Adkins in “Hazel Barricade Eyes,” wearing the world’s collective longing on his sleeve. He’s one of the lucky ones, though—a singer-guitarist-bassist-drummer-keyboardist-producer-engineer-mixer who doesn’t need to step outside his house to record the vast majority of the sounds you hear on this densely arranged album.

One thing’s for sure; Andrew Adkins has used his time in isolation well. The Echoist takes the listener on a wild genre-skipping ride through the last 60 years of American music while offering a singular, often compelling take on life in quarantine. My advice is to settle in, take the mask off and put the headphones on.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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