A country-tinged break-up album eh? Never mind Anhedonia, you’d have thought you’d probably be speeding towards Clichéville at well over 55. But as the title reinforces, Jim Clements has form in sidestepping the pitfalls that make much of the Americana over-supply so, well, just kind of OK. A writer with a rare lightness of touch and sense of humour, he’s got under his belt a couple of albums of clever, twisted-under-the-surface country-rock compositions that at their peak are a match for anyone.
The Road to Anhedonia by its nature ditches much of the, sometimes malevolent, mischief of those records. Which is a shame. But, in its place, in the more melancholy moments the songs discover a gently measured strength Musically these are probably Clements’ strongest efforts yet, often conjuring a real early-hours atmosphere – not a million miles away from Dan Michaelson’s recent, spare work (obviously singing an octave or four higher…). And even where the country sounds are more familiarly upbeat, that only serves to emphasise how in his lyrics Clements finds new and rewarding angles on the usual themes. For if the humour comes through in small downbeat moments – not least the musical references to Dylan (an organ here, a harmonica there) – there’s a subtle sense of hope building through to the final sunrise of heartfelt chiming guitar (of which Richard Hawley would be proud) which sees out closer Downtown Epilogue.
So whilst the temptation to shrug off another downbeat country album might be all-too-understandably strong, it’d be a mistake in this case. Jim Clements is still a cut above.
[And if you need further persuasion - An Introduction to Jim Clements - featuring highlights of the first two albums and a couple of the more upbeat moments off this – is still available to download for free from his website]