Mick Turner: Don't Tell the Driver
(Drag City, 11/19/13)
Mick Turner, well known for his work as guitarist for Dirty Three, easily stands on his own. The Australian is a celebrated visual artist and has an extensive career as a solo and collaborative musician. On his fourth solo record, Don’t Tell the Driver, he proves this with a laid-back tour of a rock opera reminiscent of the work of John Vanderslice or The Mountain Goats.
The songs are in no hurry. These are languid pieces, music that is here, just as much as you are, for the pleasure of the journey. The title track, a nine-minute epic, intersperses the rolling cymbals, quiet piano, and guitar with light vocals from Caroline Kennedy-McCraken. These vocals are a rarity, but like the recurring travel theme, they crop up throughout the album.
The real focus is the virtuosic music. From the opening moments of “All Gone,” a track that slowly feels its way out of silence, Turner is a masterful conductor. Evoking the feel of an orchestra warming up, he plunges ahead; titles like “Gone Dreaming” may seem too on the nose in our irony-conscious world, but as mournful horns back a simple drum and guitar piece, nothing else seems appropriate. “Over Waves” is a soothing epic; “The Birdcatcher” rattles with a nervous tension. There is a sense that these are places that Turner has traveled before. He just wants company this time.