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news / journal 23.01.2018 Words:Calum Stenning
Artwork: Erin O'Brien

In Review: Jim Dusty – Taking Inventory

It is pretty easy to condemn angsty music – at least historically it has been for me. Probably something about it being horrendously relatable… And as a twenty-something who was raised and lived in Canberra for most of their lives, I’ll admit from the start, I found Jim Dusty’s latest EP, Taking Inventory, pretty goddam easy to find some recognisable moments in.

The record wears its heart on it’s sleeve, with words and phrases such as “anxiety” and “existential dread,” as well as “pride” and “courage” included in the cover art which also features a packed storage locker with some pieces of musical equipment that are, perhaps – speculatively – specific. One could probably be forgiven for jumping to a conclusion or two before even pressing play.

The first of four tracks is the title track, Taking Inventory. (predictably, if you’re like me and jumped to “Dusty” associations), plucks and sways its way in to open the show, and is joined by a violin plucking its own rhythmic phrase, forming a busy, yet very organised rhythmic soap-box on which the younger Dusty begins to tell the story. The heart remains on the sleeve, with descriptive and evocative lyrics that manage to tackle some pretty classic angst, but without the falling into the classic trappings of sappy emotional lines that can sometimes feel a little underwritten.

The banjo and violin are joined by a double bass, which together contrast rhythmically plucked verses with equally rhythmic strummed and bowed choruses and bridges, which rise and fall in the way good story-tellin’ songs are prone to, and leaves you with a pretty good indication of the quality of songwriting, arrangement and sonic landscape the rest of the record holds.

Kenmore feels gothic, with the double-bass and violin making a reappearance to provide some bass-droning and fiddle-riffing, while Dusty, J provides some simple melodies in a similar fashion over the string-durge.

The penultimate track, Northbourne Traffic, while sticking to the overall slow rhythmic theme, feels somehow more hopeful and chipper, in the mournful and wry way folk and its related genres seem to be able to pull off.

Finally, we get to Full Self Esteem Ahead, continuing the relative emotional upswing to close the album. In the arc of a record about mental health, FSEA serves as an ode to the struggle shared with friends, and the friends it’s shared with. It is a great fourth-out-of-four tracks, bringing some resolution and conclusion to the emotional offering, and leaving a listener feeling like maybe mental health is assailable. FSEA is a little bit of light at the end of a kinda dark tunnel.

As a record, Taking Inventory is very easy to enjoy and find some nice moments in, especially for those who like pretty pared-back instrumentation and classic storytelling. Rhythm is used to great effect throughout the record, and while some similarly-genred music can be quite easy to become distracted from and disengage with, J-Dust keeps a pretty downbeat collection of songs interesting, engaging and stimulating. The creative decisions feel like they’ve been made with intent, from the lyrics and melody to the arrangement and instrumentation, giving the songs a feeling of authenticity and personal truth, which make them immediately relatable and likeable.

The more listens I give Taking Inventory, the more appreciable moments I find. There are rhythmic gems throughout, arrangements that are unexpectedly pleasurable (the title track has given me something new to notice and enjoy with each listen), and lyrics that find a balance between clarity with poetry. It feels well considered, well measured, and written with consciousness from start to finish.


 

Check out Jim Dusty – Taking Inventory below!!

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