It’s no mystery why singer/songwriter David Boone has named this project Alberta. Anyone who knows their music history will hear Boone’s riffs on traditional blues and immediately connect the name with what he’s doing on this release. Boone, however, brings a stronger personal element to his music than what many fans of Americana may be accustomed to. Boone’s take on blues music upends it somewhat, surrounding it with theatrical trappings its progenitors would have never considered, and even has an artsy edge bearing down on it in some respects. Nevertheless, Alberta invokes a true feeling for the form and gives it extra spark thanks to the depth of Boone’s lyrical content.
You hear that working from the first. “Outta My Head” hinges on one of rock music’s most successful, longest-standing tropes, but Boone supercharges it with language all his own and a vocal performance expertly balanced between edgy and emotive. He bursts out near the song’s end, however, and unleashes his best rock vocal on the release. “Nobody’s” illustrates how talented Boone is at inhabiting a character – this is much more mid-tempo moody rock than blues, Alberta never restricts itself to a single musical vehicle, but it has the same theatrical result albeit in a different idiom.
The slither-like threat implied from the first by “Quitters & Thieves” has some accompanying lyrical content that Boone treats with the confidence of a much more seasoned singer. The “instructional” quality of his writing finds a perfect union with his weathered, but musically spot on, delivery. The light rhythmic touch of the song’s percussion contrasts well with the assortment of near lyrical piano phrases laden throughout the song. The horn playing built into “Baby, Don’t Blow Your Head Off” is quite at odds with the violent phrasing of the title and the incongruity of the song constitutes a lot of its charm. The bloozy elegance of the song definitely has the whiff of desperation surrounding it, but there’s dark comedy here as well.
Boone claims Tom Waits as an important influence and you can hear some of that, at very least, with the track “Soft Lights”, but Boone embraces a far more accessible structure and sound for this song than Waits would have pursued. That’s no sleight. If anything, it stands to Alberta’s merits that it concerns itself so much with maintaining an ideal balance between challenging and entertaining listeners. The final standout cut included on the album comes with its penultimate cut “Accidents”. Alberta hits upon a simmering, overheating sway for this song; anyone familiar with Bob Dylan’s album Time Out of Mind can draw a valid reference point to the production values governing this release. It’s an effective, swampy sound achieved while still adding more dramatics to the song. Alberta isn’t just some excursion in lieu of more serious work or a one off lark; Boone has invested great time and obvious effort to make this album hold so well together. MMMMM is the first chapter in a potentially life changing story for David Boone and volumes to follow are likely to expand on this significant triumph.