J. Irvin Dally

Despistado EP

J. Irvin Dally's golden-throated croon is both impractical and necessary – and is therefore revolutionary.  It is impractical that such a young man can channel so much world weary sadness and emotional weight through a voice, a guitar and some hand-me down electronic tinkering. Impractical in the sense that on walks to work through cut-hole wire fences behind un-working class bars and vacant office buildings I can hear the surf from the small coastal Spanish town "Brasil" was written in, and smell the nicotine yellowed wallpaper of the dingy Victorian house it was recorded in. Necessary because it sounds so heartbreakingly honest and natural. So much is unknown about this 20-something Santa Rosa folk singer, but for the unknowns (and unknowables) much of Despistado feels second-hand, completely comfortable and pre-worn...Introductions aside and ready for the only-thing-you-don't-feel-awkward-in status.

Here is what we know about Mr. Dally. We know he once played in a band called Brother with Nick Crowman who drums in Religious Girls. We also know that he is back from a recent sabatical from Spain. Most importantly, however, we know Dally's recent EP is a collection of skeletal folk songs that range from light brushes over the strings with deft fingers to bombastic, sometimes jarring, arrangements that incorporate everything from primitive tape-loop drones to sputtering electronic percussion.

Album opener "The Little Ones" has a jittery, start-and-stop percussion that brings to mind recent TOME girl-pop favorites Headless Horseman. Instead of sugary rush of HH's blown-out pop songs, we get a slightly soured croon over a stacatto strummed acoustic guitar and a kick drum that hits like a cannon. Embedded in the song is this sliding electric guitar line that is 1/2 Isaac Brock, 1/2 Menomena's "Muscle'n Flow" that appears in almost every track on the album. It is a heaven-ascending lament played in the upper registers with skinny white angel-fingers. While Dally may have a perfectly expressive voice—perfect for oscillating between somber and ecstatic—this sliding note has the effect of drawing out the tiniest specks of sadness from even the most downtrodden tracks. The last minute of "Wild Things" practically rings out with them; careening and ping-ponging off each other like church bells on Sunday morning.

It would be easy to say Dally is his most comfortable in the mournful, lightly-touched folk songs. These certainly sound like his wheel house. In its absence, the tropicalia influenced morality tale "Brasil (Adelir de Carli)" sounds the most forced, but the jaunty "Salt Water" and the sparse, piano driven "Thick Red/Yellow Glasses" on Despistado's B-Side make for wonderful, insanely great detours. While clearly under the sway of somber folk songs that Dally does so well "Shanidar"'s last two minutes are a ghostly vocal drone that stops the track, and the album, dead in its tracks. 

Did I mention he covers Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses"?

Despistado feels like it has been in my life for a little over 4 years.  I can attribute this partially to the familarity of Dally's voice to many of my Salt Lake City kindred. For those of you who aren't familiar with SLC's music scene (that is everyone outside of SLC proper and about 96% of those within Salt Lake City) Dally's voice shares a certain timbre with a few of our more notable vocalists. I heard this within Dally's nuanced croon: the way he broods over syllables, the way he can never quite get out a hard consonant (no "Ts" in this baby), the nasal lilt of underdeveloped turbinates from breathing in too much smog (we have worse air than L.A. during the winter...Whoot!). TaughtMe, Brinton Jones from the Devil Whale and Ben Shephard from Uzi and Ari spring immediately to mind. Hearing Dally's idiosyncratic voice for the first time brought to mind a swelling hometown pride in amazing muscians who share a certain amount of (not quite)-sister city intonations.

Ryan H.

Pick up Despistado here 

J. Irvin Dally Myspace

November 10th, 2010