Longtime Long Beacher Robert Deeble recently moved up to Seattle, but good music is always worth writing about, even if it's from an expatriate. So as we were spinning this CD, we remembered what it was like trying to write about Deeble's last record, Earthside Down (which seems to have come out about 70 years ago—this guy works slow), and we hit a wall, because once again we made the mistake of trying to review this in daylight, this time in an antiseptic five-story office building as the noonday sun beat on our window overlooking the bustle of downtown Santa Ana, with ambulances wailing past every hour, and the scent of grease from the Norms across the street billowing up our nose. Thing is, Deeble's music is best taken in just after midnight, as the world winds down and our eyelids get heavy, and the atmosphere of the gated community we live in is permeated with feelings of isolation and fear. Yeah, early morning is definitely primo Deeble time, when we're more vulnerable to his slow, wistful melodies and captivating instrumentation that involves Wurlitzers, timpani, pianos and harmonicas, and Lili De La Mora's sweetly mysterious backing vocals that contrast with Deeble's gruff, just-woke-up moan. It's beautiful stuff, music not meant for mere listening, but absorption, tunes you almost have to feel to really appreciate. It helps if you're up on classic literature: Deeble references everyone from Emily Dickinson to William Carlos Williams or, in the case of "Russian Murder Ballad," Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Some of his song-stories can be a bit obtuse—is his martyred innocent in "The Boy With the California Sun" a Christ allegory, or, since several songs depict California as a land of salvation, sin, or something to avoid altogether, is Deeble alluding to his own Northwestern escape? We don't know anything for sure except that it's all grand music to dive into and roll around in.
Robert Deeble performs at the Prospector, 2400 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 438-3839. Thurs., Feb. 26, 9 p.m. Call for cover. 21+.
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