Gritty and raw, making music cheaply but as if his heart, soul and his front porch indie rock blues life were on the line, David Boone – doing music as Alberta – is a unique, offbeat, whispery and growly singer-songwriter in the mold of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Like those guys, he weaves stories that keep us hanging on every word. But he sets himself apart, at least to start with, by redefining the concept of DIY. He recorded his debut album MMMMM – which we can assume is a hopeful homonym for “Hmm,” as in wow, interesting – in a garage built studio, on a salvation army piano and a couch modded guitar.
No doubt trying to up the intrigue to distract us from the lack of production slickness – which truth to tell, done for effect or not, makes this a cool as hell listen – Boone says, “This record is really just the explosion of one thought, and each song is just some of the shrapnel.” Each song is piercing in its own way, but that description makes it sound like each piece is emotionally random, and his songwriting feels more intentional and soulful than that. With that slow simmering organ and stark guitar driving at the foundation of the plaintive blues tune “Parlour” feels like the saddest church song ever, a heartbreaking sermon heard by only the lonely.
The joy of MMMMM – can’t resist writing that title over and over! – is its constant shift in spirit and mood, and occasionally in tempo. Boone follows the somber “Parlour” with the jubilant harmonica piano and fiddle laden Americana shuffle “Black Powder Sweet Pea.” Likewise, he precedes the dark, moody confessional closer (yes underscored with a lonesome harmonica) “Well Well” with the funky, humorous mid-tempo rock ballad “Accidents.” It’s definitely a bit ballad heavy, but the raw instrumentation and the cool way he textures and creates echoes for his vocals may remind classic rock fans of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band period. And that’s worth muttering MMMMM for!