Finding its way out into the world via IT records and Feeding Tube, Ned Collette’s monumental folk opus Old Chestunt is a spare and haunted record feeling its way through the heavy end of the acoustic spectrum. While there are some great players on the album, including long standing percussionist partner Joe Talia, and a cameo from Chris Abrahams of The Necks, the album is essentially a soul bared by an artist alone on his own terms. There’s a grey pallor that hangs about Old Chestunt, somber and soulful, craggy and careful. Collette brings to mind the skill sets of Roy Harper and Bert Jansch put to use with dry calculation of Jim O’Rourke and the steadfast intensity of Leonard Cohen.
At times he even brings to mind the storyteller soul of Lee Hazlewood, but Collette doesn’t share the winking humor or Lee or the aforementioned Roy Harper. Instead the album prefers the curtains drawn and the bath topped and teaming, with a curl of incense and candle flickering along with the strums. Don’t let that paint the album as hopeless, or dour, though, its contemplative, introspective and measured, but its not slipping down the drain with the remains of the bath. Instead he tucks in and revels in detached soul searching like the best half of the Waters penned Floyd years.
Despite being recorded over four years, the album paints a song cycle that’s cohesive and immediate. Collette captures a corner of folk that’s not been wrung dry over the years. The artist isn’t interested in the slightest that a song sticks to the listener through traditionally memorable means, instead he’s working to press it into the skin with the sheer weight of his writing. He has the ability to sparkle in runs of fingerpicking that lean towards the Takoma school, but he’s more tender than technical. He dips into the English tradition of Canterbury classics, but spirals the songs down a well of darkness that’s meatier than the Middle Ages could contain. Towards the end he looses the ties of folk altogether, letting noise and electricity overcome the atmosphere and bury the album in cinder and ash. Its not an album that can be listened to lightly and warrants multiple listens to let Collette’s full vision sink in, but once its under your skin, Old Chestnut is hard to shake.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.