erasing clouds

The Viking Moses, The Parts That Showed

review by dave heaton

The latest album from The Viking Moses possesses its own solitary sound: personal, perhaps spiritual, and very lean. The band of six, fronted by singer/songwriter/piano player Spencer Kingman, plays guitars, bass, drums, saw and piano. But the total is minimalist – rarely do we hear all of those instruments at once, or feel like we do. The genre here is skeletal Americana, DIY story-singing – in the vein of Will Oldham perhaps, or Phosphorecent’s last album. But of course personal, essentially the stories and singing of one man.

The stories on this album link together as one story, really. “One Arm Around the Sinner”, the third track, introduces the perspective of the main character: “When I was a small girl I rode to any town they told me of / now dirty towns you own me”. She is a prostitute, wayward. Other songs are from the viewpoint of the men she encounters, mostly ugly souls in brutal bodies. It’s not an original story, but one Kingman and band invest with a lot of humanity.

It may because of the consistent, nearly monotone quality the songs have. Or it may be because of our familiarity with the song, which makes hearing it in a new context special. But the album’s one truly stunning moment comes about three-fourths of the way in, when the Viking Moses covers “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton, who the album is also dedicated to. Kingman as always is singing in a frail but impassioned way. The song itself carries emotional weight, which his singing accentuates. It becomes the album’s most emotional moment and his best. It’s a reminder of Parton’s songwriting talent that also makes us admire the Viking Moses, and the album, more, even if it makes their own songwriting pale in comparison.


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