Nashville singer/songwriter Lance Whalen‘s May 10 4-song EP “Sweet Sugar Pie” weaves together instruments and styles with Lance’s raw, almost Tom Waits-style voice. The album release coincided with Lance’s new tour “Gyspum and Gypsies” that also started May 10 which will run until June 13. Lance is rather unique, listing himself as a “Herpetoculturalist, and the Walrus of Love” on his Twitter profile, and offering music that blends pedal steel, mandolin, upright bass, guitar and piano with some edgy vocals. He raises 14 pet frogs in his living room, ergo the herpetoculturalist label. According to his bio Lance often prefers dress in all black with boots and suspenders and his music is best classified as “Americana Noir” — a kind of blend of Southern roots and Nick Cave.
I really enjoyed the title track on “Sweet Sugar Pie,” with its slow, melodic journey through some kind of heartbreak-story where the main character pleads for more time from the apparently not-so-sweet spiter. Mandolin and guitar sing along with the mournful tone.
“I don’t mind if we say goodbye/ Just don’t send me back to the world/ Let me stay awhile.”
The other tracks aren’t usually the kind of music I listen to, although they grew on me. The EP certainly has musical merit. In “What the Hell Was I Thinking?” Whalen gets across a raw message of seduction and betrayal quite effectively, with good percussion, angst-ridden vocals and Hendrix-like guitar riffs.
“A liar’s tongue/ A greasy heart/ A siren’s body/ I was doomed right from the start/ Honey, what the hell was I thinking?/ What the hell was I thinking?…/I’m going to need spiritual higher power/ To knock you from your ivory tower/ And nothing less than an ancient god/ To reclaim my life.”
The song, perhaps not the intention, actually struck me as a bit funny given its dramatics and hyperbolic lyrics mixed with the at times fun and quirky sound.
Followup “Best I Can” growls along on a piece promising romantic fealty and dedication perhaps in some kind of netherworld, given the macabre events the song describes. The most distinctive aspect is the mournful fiddle playing. “I hid behind a shimmering pond/ With the serpents, toads and cattails/ I saw you stealing through the trees/ As I took my dying breath/ I fell asleep and dreamed about you/ At your best.”
“The Way You Love Me” has a heavy percussion and guitar mix that snarls into a challenge/appeal to a romantic interest.
All in all this album introduced me to a cool artist I haven’t heard before and a style of music with a compelling, unique voice and musical approach.