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Saturday November 01, 2014
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Jeffrey Foucault

 

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this branch of American roots music is beautifully rendered: literate, spare, and deep as a quarry cut long ago.

Foucault was born and raised in southeastern Wisconsin — proving once again that there's a lot to be gained musically by a midwestern nativity. As a teen (not that long ago), he appropriated his dad's mail-order guitar and cut his teeth on a bunch of John Prine tunes. Other early influences were Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, who in turn drew him to explore the fullness of American music: old-tymey country, alt-country, bluegrass, and blues. It didn't surprise me one bit to see Greg Brown listed there amid Foucault's influences.

In 2001 Foucault released his debut album, Miles from the Lightning, and he got some serious and well-deserved attention for it. His newest effort, Stripping Cane, puts twelve songs out to dry in a farmhouse backyard under a big sky, accented with scudding clouds. No drums, no organs, no drenching reverb, no gospel choir — Foucault's eloquent everyman words and weary voice are given all kinds of space in which to breathe. Alternately sweet and ominous, his understated guitar work — electric, acoustic, National steel, and electric lap steel (not all at once) — and an occasional female harmony are about as complex as the arrangements get. Okay, maybe a tambourine.

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