Every now and again, your own self-manufactured anticipation for a follow-up album reaches such unattainable heights that the result can only be categorized as disappointing. Every now and again, but such is not the case with “It Calls On Me,” the recently released second full-length album from Doug Tuttle (out now on the ever-reliable Trouble In Mind Records). Considering that we considered Mr. Tuttle’s previous effort to be nothing short of perfect, and considering that we consider “It Calls On Me” to be even better, even more pleasing, even more perfect than its self-titled predecessor … what else is there to consider, aside from the very point of life itself?
Fortunately, in addition to being perfect, “It Calls On Me” provides plenty of moments for measured consideration and introspection; nine songs and twenty-nine minutes worth to be exact. What seems to set Mr. Tuttle’s songs apart, the element that seems to drape the entire album in a grey veneer of magic, is the fact that the songs are at once custom-built for brooding and for singing-along. “It Calls On Me” is a stunning collection of hook-heavy nuggets that sound equally poised to cause the listener to shed a few wistful tears, or to simply add their own “la-la-la” backing vocals to the album’s countless catchy choruses.
Through the dozen or several-hundred (who’s counting?) times that we’ve rolled through “It Calls On Me,” we’ve yet to get a firm handle on things like the album’s title (our proposed alternate title: “What’s Eating Doug Tuttle?”), the album’s lyrics, the album’s general raison d’etre. And none of this matters, not even a little. Because what “It Calls On Me” is more than anything else is something you want every album to be: evocative. And “It Calls On Me” is endlessly evocative, no matter who the “me” of the title is, what the “it” of the title is, or how the “calls” of the title manifests itself.
As an album, “It Calls On Me” manifests itself as a ceaselessly pleasing song cycle, with every single note, every single sound from beginning to end placed perfectly and yet, somehow, never feeling fussed over. It begins with “A Place for You,” some extra-terrestrial space sounds, some extra-terrestrial guitar sounds and, rapidly, the full merging of the two into one indistinguishable, indefatigable whole. This is followed by the album’s title track, a cool-breeze in song form, and one fueled by a positively elevating guitar solo – Michael Yonkers-esque, “Eight Miles High”-ish, Roy Buchanan-aholic – that’s panned all the way to the left for maximum enjoyment. It’s just one of many sharp, concise bursts of six-string freakouts peppered throughout “It Calls On Me,” another element of the album’s strange, singular charm.
“Make Good Time” makes a good case for being the album’s most immediately beautiful song, one buoyed by a stinging, insistent bass line, and one where voices float like clouds, sharing space with a subtle mellotron or melodeon touch. “These Times” goes hand-in-hand with “Make Good Time,” before being followed by the slow-motion wonderland of “Painted Eye,” where dashes of pedal steel paint a heartbreaking sonic skyline across which Mr. Tuttle sings, “If you’re happy where you are …,” before launching into another version of “the greatest guitar solo ever”; all hail the inhabitants of over-modulation nation.
No – wait. “Falling to Believe” is next and THIS is the album’s best sad song, an unanswerable twelve-string driven query, asking the musical question, “Can you take some time and find out what you mean?,” before once again launching into “the greatest guitar solo ever.” No – wait. “On Your Way” is next and THIS is the album’s greatest “greatest guitar solo ever.” No – wait …
“Saturday-Sunday” is the album’s penultimate and longest track and – wouldn’t you know it? – houses the album’s greatest guitar sounds (only this time we mean it). “Where Will You Go?,” the greatest song that Paul Revere & The Raiders ever forgot to write, closes the album. It sounds positively bombastic in pace when compared to the songs that preceded it, before the whole thing crushes and burns in just over a single, glorious minute.
As with the album as a whole, everything here sounds natural and somewhat delicate; not frail, but weathered. Rode hard and put away wet, if we might employ the phrase as a compliment. And we might. “If you Saturday comes ringing like a bell, let your Saturday surround you.” Highest possible recommendation.
“It Calls On Me” is out now on Trouble In Mind Records.