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Lonesome Wyatt and the Holy Spooks: Heartsick

Written by: Pat King, Special to CC2K

I’m not sure if I’ve seen a more appropriate album title in a while. Lonesome Wyatt, one half of the gothic country duo Those Poor Bastards, one of my favorite bands, has put out a solo album after just releasing a TPB EP and while working on TPB full-length. Busy guy. But his fans, and maybe music fans in general, are certainly better for it.

While I’m a big fan of Those Poor Bastards, this Lonesome Wyatt album is something completely different. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage here, having never listened to the other Holy Spooks album, a compilation of Lonesome Wyatt’s early recordings before he hooked up the Minister and started TPB. But maybe in a way that’s good, since I was quite pleasantly surprised with this album.

Ahem. Well, let’s start out by saying that I have no idea who the “Holy Spooks” are. My guess is that this album was composed solely by Lonesome Wyatt, a multi-instrumentalist and singer. Like I said in my review of Those Poor Bastards’ last full-length album, very little information, err, maybe I should just say “facts” can be found about Lonesome Wyatt. He and the Minister like to keep themselves mysteries and mysterious. I’m assuming it has something to do with letting the music exist on its own. One of the few things that we do know, something which is on the TPB official bio, is that he’s a licensed Holiness preacher, something I definitely believe.

Anyway, unlike a typical TPB album, Heartsick doesn’t evoke Depression-era Appalachian music. It’s definitely a folk album, but of a different sort. Wyatt (and / or the Holy Spooks) plays the ukulele, guitar and organ mostly. It’s a concept album of sorts—the songs seem to be sung from the perspective of the same melancholy person, whose lover has left him somehow—but the concept is mostly the journey we’re taken on. This album leaves behind the hip religious fanaticism of Those Poor Bastards and replaces it with an exploration of the gloom, the sadness, sometimes even the depression that comes with loss and emptiness. It’s a real trip, man. The album opens with “All I See are Bones,” a kind of spectral song sung toward the sea, the narrator pining for his lost love and how it effects the totality of his vision.

Maybe this all sounds too depressing. It is depressing, sure, sure, but the album is also sympathetic, tender. If this was a novel, the narrator would be depressed but relatable. For example, while listening to the song, “In the Gloaming,” the image I formed in my mind was that of a Poe or Hawthorne character, all gothic pale, walking into a forest during the first signs of a foggy nightfall. Now, there’s nothing in the lyrics that would suggest this exact image but this song had an undeniable 19th Century vibe. The entire album does, actually, but this song in particular. You know, there’s an intense sort of romanticism in this song that’s just not cool to express anymore. We’re all too postmodern and hip to fall for some romantic Platonic ideal, right?

“Going Crazy” is a bit on the psychedelic side. Musically, the church organ during the chorus gives the song a kind of carnival-gospel feel. If you think these two things shouldn’t be mixed, well, you’re not gonna dig anything by Lonesome Wyatt or Those Poor Bastards anyway. If you do, then, naturally, welcome aboard!

“There is Nothing” is one of the best songs I’ve heard about the absolute dread that comes with a serious bout of depression. You know, that kinda falling into the abyss type depression. Or that searching for some inner truth kind of depression and finding nothing kind of depression. That kind of thing. If you’ve never been to that mindspace, good, thank the baby Jesus. It’s an awful place to be. This song will tell you what it’s all about, though. It’s like being inside someone’s schizoid head for a while—might not be all that fun, but you’ll probably learn something from the experience. Not that this song isn’t fun. It is. Trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong?

Heartsick is a freakin’ wonderful album. It sounds like something old and dusty, yet new, contemporary. It’s one of the finest explorations of sadness that I’ve ever heard. Lonesome Wyatt (and the Holy Spooks) has made a dark but gentle album, something best listened to at the approach of nightfall.