John Carlin

John Carlin

Songs From the Black House


Listening to John Carlin’s rough, weary voice, one senses that this is a deeply personal, emotionally charged album. One gets the impression that the words are what matters — but his lyrics are enigmatic, his words often hard to translate into simple meaning. With that voice, however, and the sometimes impressive soundscapes he builds, any further investigations into the worlds of factual realities and narrative causality are rendered meaningless, nothing but a waste of time. The melodies carry the lyrics, filling them with meaning and tension in the process. And some of the songs on here, filled with anger and frustration and bitter resentment — but, in time, also hope and love and trust — are beautiful songs indeed. The liner notes — yes, there are liner notes! — mention Gladys Knight and the Pips, and sure enough, this music is rooted in soul. Listen to “Cold Your Shoulder,” say, and the lazy soul funk that one can imagine Stevie Wonder doing back in the days, if that’s not being too blasphemous. But Carlin delivers his songs in a folksier way, like Springsteen’s Philly material, and is a singer-songwriter more than anything else. It makes for confused listening at times, mainly because it seems that Carlin himself is unsure of what to do, of which way to go. But at his best John Carlin has delivered an engaging collection of personal, heartfelt and humble songs.

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