From apple pie and Abe Lincoln to Zion National Park and ZZ Top (okay, that last one is a bit tenuous), making a list of iconically American things is pretty easy. But Stuart Pearson has never been that interested in the obvious or more frivolous aspects of American life, as his fantastic album, Mojave, neatly proved.
And now he is back, following threads through the dark underbelly of his homeland, and this time he is looking at the exclusively American concept of the televangelist. And where the televangelist goes, like some medieval hawker of Indulgences and Absolutions, his merch and money-making schemes won’t be far behind.
Riding a musical vehicle that blends New Orleans raggle-taggle blues, Waitsian growls and Nick Cave subject matter (although a hat tip to The Hooters’ marvellous Satellite is due at this point too), he makes a sound that, ironically, is American. However, it is the America Dream as dismantled so eloquently by the likes of The Eagles (in Hotel California) and F. Scott Fitzgerald, David Lynch and Hunter S. Thompson, one bordering on an American Nightmare.
Music should always have something to say, even if the conversation that it opens up is a difficult one for many, especially if it is difficult. Conformity is an easy default setting for many to fall into, so artists such as Stuart Pearson are more important than ever, especially in the entrenched world that we find ourselves in today. Conformity is just the act of not questioning the status quo, the act of acceptance and of blind faith.
I hear the words of Dylan Thomas echoing out in this sentiment. In the same way that the iconic Welshman warned against accepting death too readily, Pearson reminds us that we should Rage, Rage against the dying of reason and honesty. Do not go gentle unto that…