Dan DonovanDan Donovan
Album: 12_12 Acoustic Sessions
Label: Oilbug
Tracks: 12

A dozen songs from the dozen albums Donovan has released in a career that spans 35 years, all revisited in a stark, grit-packed, almost punky folk-blues snarl. The debts these songs are their delivery owe to primary influences such as Tom Waits and Bob Dylan are blindingly obvious, but do nothing to detract from the high tales and tall terrors that are revealed in listening to them. This is the sound of a man called Dan howling his resistance to the Fates - although whether he is alerting the course of personal history or merely whistling in the wind remains a moot point.

Stripped of their studio settings these songs must stand or fall on their own, that each survives the cold light of day is a tribute not only to the quality of Donovan's writing but also to his performance - demanding, dark, sometimes a little difficult - an echo of early 90s Nick Cave with a sore head. Thus, album closer Sassy Punk retains its organ fills, but only hints at the confrontational sonic soup that heralded its previous incarnation on the 2000 album Hex the Ghears. So Dance, from the 1993 King Kool outing Trashbone Thang, finds Donovan rumbling and creaking like a chained grizzly, but resolves into a brooding cocktail of coal black imagery and nocturnal poetry.

The set opens with Root It Bag It, which sets the tone perfectly, then unfolds the growling No Bad Dog and Skin Teeth to emphasise the dark matter with which this so readily lies down, although for my money when the light pushes its way through the cracks in the personal armour - Boot Beautiful - the effect is quite startling.

Perhaps the appreciation of 12_12 Acoustic Sessions will depend to what extent Donovan's cultish 90s outfit Tribe of Dan made an impact on listeners - or even the garage-rock of his current band King Kool - but in fact it should speak to all who have a place for the sinister end of the folk-blues spectrum.

Nick Churchill

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