Jack Rose – Opium Musick (VHF vinyl edition)

3 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Bill Kellum, Mike Chaffin (recorded by)

Coming to this off the back of Red Horse, White Mule, it’s hard not to compare. If that prior release was an ode to / influenced by its drink namesakes – highs of whimsy and looseness, lows of darkness and isolation – Opium Musick may take a similar cue from its title. The result is always beautiful, but also very subdued, or traditional – Linden Ave Stomp could be a Black Twig Pickers track, for example. Musick is very controlled, nary the whole way through, which can also be an expression of brilliance – such as the way Rose sneaks calmly back into and around a theme throughout Mountaintop Lamento’s blissful 10+ minutes – but it’s also harder to identify as the works of an artist; that is, Jack sinks into the music such that we hear composition over emotion. That’s not necessarily good or bad, but again, I’m riding high off of Red Horse’s ever shifting aura of sounds, so it makes a less immediate impression.

Restlessness does emerge in final track Black Pearls, Rose actively picking and strumming at a more hurried pace- perhaps coming down from a high, the itch for more sinking in – but even this feels rather muted under a blanket of opium for the most part, though this makes for some powerful juxtapositions of particularly loud strums and a counter melody in the track’s latter half. It is a standout, but that’s not to lessen how great some of the other songs can be on their own, rather it’s the overall emotions and energies expressed by the album that, to me, make it not as repeatable as other Rose albums.

As with VHF’s / Three-Lobed Records Red Horse, White Mule rerelease, the vinyl pressing of this sounds fantastic – very warm, very deep.