The 11th album from Nashville’s legendary Lambchop, Mr. M, focuses on coping with life after the death of the band's good friend and regular collaborator Vic Chesnutt.
Every song here is surrounded with lush orchestral arrangements. What continues to make Lampchop great is its patience. There’s never a rush to get to the next note. Each swell and harmony resonates and entices.
The beauty of the music belies the sadness in Kurt Wagner’s lyrics. Throughout Mr. M, we can find the multitude of emotions that come with the death of a friend. There’s frustration on “If Not I’ll Just Die” (“Don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about”). On the desert rock influenced “B2B,” he paints a picture of apathy (“Took the Christmas lights off the front porch February the first”). “The good life is wasted on me,” Wagner sings as he wonders like so many before him why he’s been so lucky on “The Good Life (is Wasted).”
Sometimes, as instrumentals “Gar” and “Betty’s Overture” suggest, there’s just nothing to say. Symbolically, it’s moving, but these are the weaker moments on the album musically. While the arrangements on the album are gorgeous, they lose their nuance when not balanced with Wagner’s incredibly intimate delivery.
It’s Wagner, as always, who’s the star here. The bond he creates with the listener over the 56 minutes is powerful. On Mr. M, his pain becomes the our pain and his joy - such as finding love in the aftermath of death on “Never My Love” - is our joy.
Mr. M is out now on Merge Records. Lambchop will play Motorco Music Hall in Durham on April 14. Tickets are $12.