With a Little Help From His Friends
Vic Chesnutt continues his collaborative streak
Many songwriters expose their heart and soul, but Vic Chesnutt hoists up his spleen, too, venting gnarly proclamations, wry observations, throwaway potty-mouth jokes and Southern Gothic vignettes. And, sometimes, the dude needs help. The versatile, prolific Athens, Ga., songwriter’s 12th studio album, Dark Developments, is his latest in a long line of collaborative highs and lows. Here’s a breakdown.
Little (1990), West of Rome (1991)
Michael Stipe produces Chesnutt’s intimate first two albums of story-songs with minimal complication, generating maximum pathos.
Nine High A Pallet (1995), Co-Balt (2002)
As hybrid band Brute, Chesnutt and Widespread Panic reign in each other’s self-indulgence, creating two fiery albums of locked-in-a-groove rockers.
The Salesman and Bernadette (1998)
Supported by a 12-piece version of alt-country powerhouse Lambchop, this graceful collection of brokenhearted laments aches with romance.
Silver Lake (2003)
Sophisticated L.A. studio pros lay a schmaltzy, uncharacteristic sheen on some of Chesnutt's most prosaic, disinterested writing.
Ghetto Bells (2005)
While Chesnutt’s songs veer toward lyrical impressionism, Van Dyke Parks (keyboard and accordion) and Bill Frisell (guitar) provide emotional anchoring.
North Star Deserter (2007)
Filmmaker Jem Cohen guides post-rock demigods Thee Silver Mt. Zion as they back our man. The results are wildly apocalyptic, mournfully elegiac, momentarily funny and remarkably rewarding.
Dark Development (2008)
With Athens stalwarts Elf Power and others backing, Chesnutt’s latest hearkens back to his rollicking Brute days. Rooted in Southern sounds and augmented with psychedelic flourishes, it’s capable but lacks a strong identity.