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Lambchop

Mr. M

CD/DVD, CD, Box Set, LP

Mr. M started in a painter’s studio in fact. Wagner explains. “As I worked, I was approached by Mark Nevers (former full time band member & producer for the likes of Andrew Bird and Will Oldham) with the idea of making another Lambchop record. He had a concept of a sound and a method that worked with the tone of my writing. His idea was a kind of ‘psycho-Sinatra’ sound, one that involved the arranging of strings and other sounds in a more open and yet complex way. It was a studio creation, not a type of recording based on band performance, and this was a radical approach for us. I felt Lambchop had one more good record in us, and this time I was going to do things as directly and true to my desires as possible.”

The new record starts with some casual cursing yet the last word is ‘love’. It began when singer-songwriter-guitarist-mastermind Kurt Wagner turned away from music and picked up his brushes to paint his way out of a funk that followed the premature death of friend Vic Chesnutt, who the band backed on 1998’s The Salesman and Bernadette. And though the sprawling multi-headed quiet juggernaut that is Lambchop most often treasure performance over artifice, their eleventh album is very much a studio creation.

MR. M started in a painter’s studio in fact. Wagner explains. “As I worked, I was approached by Mark Nevers (former full time band member & producer for the likes of Andrew Bird and Will Oldham) with the idea of making another Lambchop record. He had a concept of a sound and a method that worked with the tone of my writing. His idea was a kind of ‘psycho-Sinatra’ sound, one that involved the arranging of strings and other sounds in a more open and yet complex way. It was a studio creation, not a type of recording based on band performance, and this was a radical approach for us. I felt Lambchop had one more good record in us, and this time I was going to do things as directly and true to my desires as possible.”

The resulting album was recorded at Nevers’s Nashville Beech House studio cum bungalow, working with the usual core of musicians- Scott Martin (drums), Matt Swanson (bass), Ryan Norris (guitar, organ), Tony Crow (piano), William Tyler (guitar). Guests include original co-founder Jonathan Marx, delightful Cortney Tidwell (who shared vocals on 2010’s KORT project) and fiddler Billy Contreras (who has worked with all from Charlie Louvin to Laura Cantrell) - and with spectacular string arrangements shared between Peter Stopschinski and Mason Neely, it stretches out sonically as promised. (Incidentally the paintings, thickly layered black and white portraits forming a series called “Beautillion Millitaire 2000”, feature on the album sleeve and throughout the full artwork).

The album was originally called ‘Mr Met’, but as baseball team the New York Mets have a mascot by that name, the album title had to be changed to avoid legal complications with the baseball league. During the time of this name insecurity, the album was briefly called Major League Bummer.

‘Met’ here isn’t a sports or even an urban reference, but the past participle of ‘to meet’. And here a name for the lost friend, who had been Wagner’s musical “co-communicator” for many years.

In the song ‘Never My Love’, Wagner, for the very first time uses a four-letter word that has never previously appeared in his work.

Yet no Lambchop record has ever been lacking in love, and MR. M is no exception. “This is a record of, and about, love and the healing, binding force that it represents. It’s the thing that becomes, more and more, the only thing worth living for as we move on through these years together, not alone”, says Wagner.