Stuart Pearson’s early life took him from the suburbs of Long Island to the rural Midwest and then back East to the concrete jungle of Manhattan. As a child, music was his escape and catharsis as he battled epilepsy. His travels exposed the young artist to a rich tapestry of North American music, from the classic singer/songwriter Folk of legends like Leonard Cohen and Country icon Johnny Cash to the proto-punk and glam heroes of the CBGB stage like the New York Dolls, Television, Ramones and of course Lou Reed’s seminal Velvet Underground. His sound was influenced equally by tradition and revolution.
With his band Through the Woods, Pearson molded these influences into a unique new genre of music now called Dark Americana. The group played throughout the 90’s mixing a Postmodern aesthetic with an Alt-Country vibe and a wildly creative choice of instruments, from glockenspiels to hubcaps. In the 2000’s Stuart Pearson launched a solo career which has produced a half dozen albums of equally adventurous musical exploration.
In 2007, I performed on the Taste of Chaos tour and The Warped Tour using a Slinky, a cymbal-playing toy monkey, remote controlled Christmas toys, accordion, hurdy gurdy and toy piano, playing Hip-hop and Metal songs.Stuart Pearson
“Mojave” is the latest album from Stuart Pearson, released worldwide to all major streaming services on October 30, 2021. The 10 song collection is the second in a series of Dark Americana albums, following last year’s “Dark Americana: Stories and Songs.” Through the course of the record, Pearson takes us on a journey through the backroads, lost highways and shadowed corners of America.
The record opens on its most traditional Americana track. “Like a House With Broken Windows” finds the song’s protagonist using simile to paint a picture of the sins and secrets of his own life. An ensemble of acoustic, electric and steel guitars, mandolin, bass and drums plays as Stuart Pearson hints at what’s to come, singing of “all the bad men I’ve been.”
“Down the Ravine” introduces a cool avant-garde edge. Conjuring the great Tom Waits, Stuart Pearson riffs on the creepy imagery that the song’s title suggests, while the band delivers some grungy trash can Blues. “Dragging the Lake (on the Day of the Dead)” follows with a more mainstream sound but equally dark subject matter. The sound brings to mind the brilliant solo work of The Band’s Robbie Roberston.
On “Are They Digging Your Grave (or are they digging mine)” the singer delivers a deep Country baritone and dark poetry over a classic Western, foot-stomp and clap funeral-march drum beat. In both style and substance the song lives somewhere between the fire and brimstone Country of Johnny Cash and the emotionally tortured Folk of Leonard Cohen.
“You Don’t See Me (Jimmy Crack Corn)” takes us to one of the darkest corners of this psychological thriller. A lo-fi beat churns, fueled by Morphine-style saxophone riffs. A tremolo guitar and distant organ chords float on the periphery as the singer delivers a monologue from the perspective of a man who may be a stalker, a rapist, a ghost or all three. It’s a real creeper, and it is fantastic.
Musically, “The Interstate” is a wild ride. On the track, Stuart Pearson pairs a classic railroad rhythm with a mix of traditional and exotic sounds. Although the band consists of standard American Blues and Country instrumentation, with a combination of guitars and Jaw Harp he summons the soul of an Aboriginal didgeridoo and takes this murder road trip on a detour through the Australian outback.
On the surface “One Cut” sounds like a lovely Country/Folk love song. Guest vocalist Hunter Lowry sings of her love and devotion to her husband. However, it is soon apparent that something is not right. She is insane. By the end of this beautiful melancholy ballad we realize that the bride intends to save the her lover’s soul and her own with a bloody murder/suicide. The ominous “You Never Really Know” follows with a cinematic arrangement Stuart Pearson’s deep, theatrical vocal that lands somewhere between Nick Cave and Tom Morello’s Nightwatchman.
Throughout “Mojave,” the bad guys/girls seem to be winning. Their crimes appear to be punished only by an ever compounding madness. “Tomorrow’s Gonna Hunt You Down” suggests possible retribution, although it’s not entirely clear whether it is the guilty or the innocent who will pay, if anyone is truly innocent in this Dark Americana tale. The track features a great bit of psychedelia and a cool extended violin solo.
The album ends on “Dance Skeletons Dance,” an eclectic mix of Surf drums, Prog Rock drama, fiddles and castinet sub-rhythms. Meanwhile, Stuart Pearson sings a deep baritone soliloquy from the perspective of a killer surveying the carnage of his lifetime.
Musically, “Mojave” is a rich and satisfying mix of past and future, tradition and cutting edge. With a fearless sense of adventure Stuart Pearson explores the many nuances of American music. No stone is left unturned from the Mississippi Delta to the Western Plains and the arthouses of Greenwich Village. Lyrically, the record is like a collection of psychodrama short stories that dive deeply into the most disturbing elements of the human psyche. Imagine a Stephen King novel read by the stories murderous antagonist, with a groovy soundtrack of psychedelic Americana. It is deep, dark and endlessly disturbing. And it is a lot of fun.
Check out “Mojave” in its entirety below, or listen on your favorite streaming service. You can also hear the track “Down The Ravine” on the Deep Indie Dive playlist. Follow the links below to connect with Stuart Pearson. Get on his socials and dig into his rich catalog of music.