Review: Tony Reed ‘Funeral Suit’

Funeral Suit is the solo acoustic debut from Seattle multi-instrumentalist/singer Tony Reed and is another chapter in Ripple Music‘s fantastic Blood And Strings acoustic series, part 2 to be exact. Like Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich, he is prolific with respect to the amount of projects he’s been involved with including Treepeople, Mos Generator, Big Scenic Nowhere, Stone Axe and Constance Tomb (which I reviewed back in May). He’s also a very well respected and in demand producer with an extensive list of credits to his name.

Tony Reed 'Funeral Suit'

Early drafts of this album were to be acoustic renditions of Mos Generator tracks with a heavier feel. This changed over time and the lyric writing became even more self reflective, a pattern he had started with Mos Generator‘s more recent output. There is no fancy artwork on this release, just a simple picture of Tony reflecting perhaps the more straight forward, stripped down approach on offer.

The album opens with Waterbirth and I was immediately struck by the Crosby, Stills and Nash styled harmonies. It’s a nicely played slice of acoustic folk and a pleasant way to open this eight track affair. Tony’s vocal style on the second track, Moonlighting, reminds me of the aforementioned Wino if he covered a Cat Stevens tune. As you’d expect from a track titled Funeral Suit darkness was to be expected, the vocals surprisingly soulful and reminiscent of ‘gulp’ Elton John, before the tantrums and theatrical bombast.

Along The Way impressed me with both the melancholic style and guitar playing/finger picking recalling Townes Van Zandt. Lonely One features a less restrained Tony, his vocals and playing are a little more forceful, which can’t help but make you think that the themes of the track really resonate with him. It’s as if he is trying to exorcise every bit of frustration and regret he’s stored up for god knows how many years. To borrow a Daily Mirror phrase, this was Reed ‘unleashed’, a paean to the many sacrifices a musician makes for the sake of their art.

the fact that the result is so accomplished is what makes this record so impressive, bolstering Reed’s reputation as one of rock’s most reliable and important performers…

Wicked Willow features beautiful piano playing and as I’ve been listening to a lot of McCoy Tyner and Neil Young (After The Gold Rush mainly), the mellower tone set by this tune suits me down to the ground. This track may alarm some fans of Tony’s more boisterous rock output, but if you’re a serious fan and been listening carefully to his work in recent years, then it won’t come as too much of a surprise.

Might Just… conjures the sound of outlaw country that the likes of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings pioneered. The restless musician constantly on the move, never staying in one town for very long. Ordinarily I’d run a mile from any type of country styled music, but when its handled tastefully like this, then I’m happy to stay the course, for now at least.

Who Goes There is the most experimental track on the album, the quieter, almost mute moments, punctuated by massive CSN/Queen style vocal harmonies. It’s a little jarring at first, but after a couple of listens it begins to make more sense and works surprisingly well.

As with Wino, we’re used to Tony demonstrating his musical prowess via his usual heavier output (his version of Pentagram’s Forever My Queen on YouTube has to be seen to be believed), what’s extraordinary is that this is his first ever acoustic record. You’d have forgiven him if mistakes were made, but the fact that the result is so accomplished is what makes this record so impressive, bolstering Reed’s reputation as one of rock’s most reliable and important performers.

Label: Ripple Music
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Scribed by: Reza Mills