JOHN STATZ – Dusk Came Slow
John Statz is a singer/songwriter in the most traditional sense. His debut CD Dusk Came Slow has more in common with James Taylor than with John Mayer. At fifteen tracks and topping fifty minutes the CD initially seems a bit long, but that’s only because with Statz as essentially the only musician, the songs possess little to distinguish themselves at first listen. Producer Nate Edwards helps out with a backing vocal or an accordion part on a handful of tunes and Mark Roethke plays guitar on another, but really, it’s just him. And I get the feeling that’s the way he wants it, as Dusk comes off as an intensely personal collection. A lyrics sheet would have been helpful, as each song is a wordy vignette, populated by a rush of characters, emotions and memories.
In the first category there’s “Phil the Prophet,” “Old Pete,” and the subject of “Lucy’s Song.” The first character, lounging on a blanket in the park, wants to save your soul, while the last is a laughing and likeable person despite her deeper ache. “I’m in love with the pain in your eyes,” Statz proclaims over a bouncy mandolin and plucked banjo that makes it seem not quite so bad. “Old Pete,” on the other hand, is a bastard who burns his bridges and leaves no friends behind him as he travels across the plains. “The Isonzo Waltz” seems at first glance as if it would be the lightest of the collection until you realize that he is referring to the bloody WWI battles at the titular Italian river (“Seven thousand men crossed the river today / And none of them came back across”). As in the war, in the song many lives are lost (“the river runs red”) before there’s peace, but the narrator lies in a grave in Venice. Whew. Heavy stuff.
The record is noticeably devoid of light-hearted moments throughout, and could certainly use some levity to balance the gravity. “Cold August Night” perhaps comes closest; his admission that “I lay my head on the pillow / I hope she doesn’t mind if I snore” is a rare smile. Still a college student, Statz seems excessively weighed down by the problems of the world and his own expectations, and it makes him sound much older. Of course, it is possible that the songs on Dusk aren’t as autobiographical as they sound, in which case he deserves even more credit for his vivid imaginings and knowingly emotional tales. But I still wish he would lighten up.