“You are more”, Hieronymus Bogs sings on the opening cut “Endure,” from his latest album “Lowlives Divine.” A mission statement over an island rhythm that kicks off this collection of meditations perfectly.
With a croon that sits comfortably somewhere between Roy Orbison and Scott Walker, Bogs guides us through songs that are modal in harmony, patient in arrangement and cinematic in imagery, though not in the lyrics explicitly. This music brings the listener to wide open spaces, be it a painted desert or the rolling hills of the countryside, wherever your minds eye prefers to wander. A natural effect given the traditional American instrumentation. Banjos pluck, pianos and guitars lean into tall chords and a violin plays the blues, all orchestrated meticulously.
But let’s be honest here, the singer is the real star of the show. Bogs is having a never ending conversation with God and wants us to be flies on the infinite wall. This is best displayed on the song, “Lovers.”
“Lovers, show mercy to me.” Is he a man recently wounded by romance who can’t stand the sight of people in love? Is he a God who’s seen too much of your sinful practices? Or maybe a man seeking forgiveness from a lover he’s recently betrayed and professing his imperfections. He leaves us asking more questions than finding answers, and while maybe this doesn’t seem to develop, the music sure as hell does as it creeps its way to a climax that winds up being the albums finest moment. All of this works considering mysteries are often better celebrated than solved, and Bogs clearly understands this.
Elsewhere, beggars are clothed, ruins are rebuilt and beautiful losers smoke and drink their way through existence. The push and pull of the title track sways its way through primordial soup, and the prayer of “The Only Crown” can both soothe and inspire. Gospel at its most persuasive.
In an era when most indie minded acts seem more concerned with being haircuts than storytellers, it’s refreshing when an artist can embrace his own nakedness. Hieronymus Bogs does this fearlessly. Wild and Free indeed. 7.8/10