The arrangements are pared to the bone, the lyrics bleak and oblique. It's atmospheric,
|The stark and spare Duke Garwood|
And that, essentially, is it. It's a mood piece, virtually devoid of dynamics. It's sombre, sub fusc, occasionally droning stuff, very much through a glass darkly. Consonant with the stark and spare instrumentation, Garwood adopts a muttering, keening singing style. Occasionally a guitar is allowed to twinkle a little, as on 'Burning Seas', creating some sharp points of light in the ongoing dusk. But such contrasts are limited.
I'm forcibly reminded of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's Raising Sand, and for me that is not a recommendation. Grammy Awards notwithstanding, RS is a classic example of the Emperor's new clothes, and Heavy Love exemplifies its most infuriating characteristics. It's a style I think of as Gloom Blues, which before long leaves me exclaiming "Cheer up, for god's sake!" Somewhere along the way Garwood conjures a brief moment that echoes 'The Beast In Me', which Nick Lowe wrote for Johnny Cash - and that lays things bare. There are good examples of this genre, such as Springsteen's Nebraska and Cash's American Recordings. But they work because the songs have heart - strong melodies and lyrics that tell stories. Give me the Man in Black's cracked vocals and simple guitar anyday.