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Vic Chesnutt | Left To His Own Devices (spinART)
Something of a return to the recordings which first attracted the patronage of Michael Stipe, more than 10 years ago, Vic Chesnutt has, with the exception of a little musical assistance from his wife Tina, been Left To His Own Devices, recording this, his 9th album, entirely alone. With just the use of a 4-track, a computer and his unique musical vision for company Chesnutt has compiled another intriguing collection of his bleak, but often-comic observations of life and all that it throws at him.  By recording the album on his own terms and thus removing many of the usual constraints that go into the making of an album, Chesnutt has crafted an admittedly often fragmented, but as often cohesive palette of musical interludes and stream of consciousness lyricism. A glance, cursory or otherwise, at Chesnutt's sleevenotes highlight his mindset as well as anything might, consisting as they do of a potpourri of variously tragic, desperate, joyous and bewildering shreds of what I assume are Chesnutt's own memories of various moments in his life. We Should Be So Brave is a good example of Chesnutt's gently self deprecating sense of humour, being both poignant and funny in equal measure, on which he sings "I don't need to look in the mirror to know just where I sit, in the scheme of things / I don't need a doctor's exam to tell me why I can't fly." As often warmly melodic as it is oddly discordant and sometimes during the same song - the memorably entitled Very Friendly Lighthouses springs to mind - such is the overall success of Left To His Own Devices that you hope Chesnutt might be left to them a little more often.

Geraint Jones
June-July 2001