Stu Larsen – VagabondCultureMusicAlbum reviews
Stu Larsen is a vagabond. He’s travelled the world, sleeping on the couches of friends and strangers; his album cover has him bearded and shaded by glass, standing by the expanse of a lake. Larsen is a man who set out for the open road, and his debut album Vagabond is the musical reflection of that pursuit. Its sound is the deep mourning of the American south, the glittering shimmer of the Emerald Isle, the open plains and sweeping roads of California.
It’s also about the loneliness and isolation of constant travelling. Vagabond’s duality is found in its celebration of the open road, as well as its sense of longing to be a part of something. Tracks like San Francisco and Ferry to Dublin contrast the more explicitly titled Thirteen Sad Farewells and I Will Wait No More.
The album seems autobiographical, but Larsen’s penchant for vivid storytelling means it takes on a fictitious quality and becomes as much about the strangers and friends he has met on his travels. King Street is the story of a lonely drifter who is dying from loneliness, the twinkling Far Away From Here concerns a woman who refuses the help of others. These tracks are portraits that help fill Larsen’s biography.
He sings with an affected, almost pained urgency throughout. It aims to touch on the sentimental: he’s a man who has felt plenty of pain, and wants you to feel those pains as well. His voice is soft and sanguine and always assured. The vocal harmonies throughout add a real richness, especially in album stand-out Skin and Bone.
The instrumentation on Vagabond always sounds impressive, but Larsen’s reliance on the shimmering production actually detracts from the broken sorrow of his story. Things are a little too clean and polished: they seem at odds with the story of an everyman traveller doing it rough. Maybe I Am especially suffers from an overproduction of swirling strings that relies on an obvious sentimentality.
There aren’t any real cracks or croaks until the beautifully subtle album closer I Will Wait No More. This final track puts in place the last pieces of Larsen’s story. As he croons softly “I’ve been waiting for my darling, but now I’ll wait no more”, Larsen begins to come to terms with the loneliness of his journey, and begins to embrace it.
Vagabond was released on 15th July 2014, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for Thirteen Sad Farewells here: