Mick Turner has long been a guitarist who eschews the spotlight. The Australian artist seems most content when supporting the bombast of his cohorts in Dirty Three or providing a foundation for collaborators like Chan Marshall and Will Oldham to build upon.
So it should come as little surprise that, while his name is on the front cover of this album, Turner resides in the background of these tracks. His guitar playing never wants to cut too far forward in the mix, resting in a comfortable middle ground that allows him to either build a sustained mood with a few overlapping lines or simply hang far back to let a trumpet or the vocals of Caroline Kennedy-McCracken take the lead.
The effect of his restraint is that Don’t Tell The Driver spends the whole of its hour-long running time in what feels like a slow melt, with melodies sliding down its surface alluringly. You know that the final result is just going to be a puddle around your feet, but you can’t help but watch it build, drip by drip.
That’s why the decision to include a vocalist was such a smart one. Kennedy-McCracken’s dulcet expressions of languish help provide a framework for Turner to move within and melodies to bounce his guitar and melodica work off of. And it gives structure and weight to what might have otherwise been formless masses of psychedelically tinged sound. The same goes for the deep male baritone that pops up on “Over Waves.” Turner buoys it with a Spanish guitar strum and shimmers of electric guitar noise.
It seems an insult to refer to Don’t Tell The Driver as great background music, but that is where it works best. Put this on as a soundtrack to a quiet Sunday spent avoiding the drizzle and gray outside, or on your iPod as you slowly saunter down the beach. Let Mick Turner set the mood for your autumnal wanderings and lost-in-space thought patterns.