This modest record from Redlip (Adam Leonard and Ashley Cooke of Pulco and Derrero) is the right kind of lo-fi: thoughtful, fun, and yet oddly literate in spots -- an Ovid reference or two! Dan and Headless Bill is intimate without being precious. And that's the trick.
On "Jansch" Ashley Cooke -- I think -- plucks out beautiful guitar notes in the style of the master of the song's title as he narrates facts about the guy. The effect is simultaneously one of education and tribute; one can enjoy the song completely without knowing a single thing about the legendary guitarist, but the track also reminds a listener about Bert Jansch's lifetime of superb work.
Similarly, on "Sid James" the story of the Carry On funnyman's on-stage death in Sunderland, UK, is turned into a tragicomic tale. It's a weird-but-lovely track, haunting in an intellectual fashion. Sid James is now a somewhat poetic figure in my mind now, not just a guy lusting after Babs Windsor.
"Chant" finds Ash and Adam conjuring up a mellow mood, one that is slightly mournful -- something about that acoustic guitar line. When a bell-like keyboard enters, the song reminds one of "Cruel" by Prefab Sprout. The vocal line seems to follow what one would expect of a Gregorian chant but the song is not so morose. I can envision playing this on my iPod as I walk through the woods in winter.
"Jaunty Mexico" is downright sprightly, with a Latin-influenced acoustic guitar figure. Like some of Ash's work as Pulco, the song reminds me of the odd Boo Radleys cut. The harmonies here are just lovely. I think a song like this beguiles because it sounds so casual and yet, given the horns and other layered bits in the track, it's clearly the end result of careful studio work.
This is an album with a lot of charm. I find myself drawn to music like this as I get older. Lo-fi without being lazy, serious without being pretentious, Dan and Headless Bill finds 2 men making music of the highest caliber on their own thoughtful terms.
More than that, it's melodic stuff. Fans of Adam Leonard and Ash Cooke, as well as fans of Elliott Smith-styled indie pop, would be wise to grab this album from Folkwit Records when it's released on 26 September.