Sunday, December 4, 2011

Franz Nicolay's Luck and Courage

Franz Nicolay(former member of perpetual yawners Hold Steady) grew up in a cabin with no electricity and then found himself in New York at seventeen. With such massive cultural and environmental shifts at such a young age, it seems only logical that these would be the sorts of things that would go on to influence his life and his songwriting. His follow up to Major General, Luck and Courage, is a reflection of the strange path that Nicolay's life has taken and it almost sounds as if it's an amalgamation of city and country influences. Sitting somewhere between being rustic and folky and jittery and dramatic, Luck and Courage is an emotionally draining and intense record that seems as frazzled as a country boy lost in the big city.

Luck and Courage has its moments, but for the most part a lot of this record is just a bit too folky for my liking. With banjos and acoustic guitars propping up the lyrical wadnerings of Nicolay in it's slow moments, the record seems almost too rustic for it's own good. It's only when Nicolay gets jumpy that the album offers a moment or two of respite. It's during these moments that Luck and Courage is listenable. Sounding something like Springsteen sitting in on a Tindersticks session, Nicolay sounds as if he's been drinking whiskey, smoking, and writing songs about the changes he's experienced in his life. It's the best part of the record and almost makes Luck and Courage tolerable. Unfortunately, the domineering slow and acoustic moments that surround the urban influenced songs seem to wallow in this folky realm of solitude and pull the record down.

Some might find the heart tugging folksy approach of Franz Nicolay appealing but having been raised in a major metropolitan area I'm used to a hurried pace and a sence of urgency and that's something that Luck and Courage doesn't seem to have. Rustic and expressive Franz Nicolay is a unique study of contrasts and Luck and Courage is a report on those contrasts. While there's load of potential here, it seems as though a vast majority of Luck and Courage needs a boost of energy to elevate it to its fullest. Nicolay might have been stuck between the moon and New York City for most of his life, but lets hope that New York City takes it over and he writes many songs about it because then Franz Nicolay won't need Luck and Courage.

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