J. Tillman whispers the Vacilando Territory Blues [Album Review]

by oz on January 14, 2009

J. Tillman

J. Tillman seems to take pride in negative reviews. A peek at his MySpace page shows several negative comments from critics comparing him to Phil Collins‚  (Tillman is the drummer in Fleet Foxes). I happen to like Phil Collins.

While Tillman’s work is perceived as a side project, he was first a songwriter that was later picked up by Fleet Foxes as drummer. His work falls in the same category with bands like Iron and Wine, Great Lake Swimmers and Horse Feathers, featuring tender folk songs and whispering vocals that echo around acoustic guitar and other sparse instrumentation. I’ve sampled his previous albums, but never pulled the trigger on a purchase because it all sounded somewhat bland and flat in 30 second song snippets.

Enter Vacilando Territory Blues. J. Tillman isn’t blazing new trails, but he is adding more instrumentation including the occasional horns, electric guitar, pedal steel, and banjo.‚  I downloaded on eMusic and it’s played in the office and around the house for a couple weeks. My only complaint is that there aren’t enough upbeat, rocking tracks like “New Imperial Grand Blues” to offset the melancholy tracks. Hopefully Tillman will continue to plug-in and enlist the help of other musicians to contrast his solo acoustic work with something bigger and ballsier.

“Steel on Steel” and “James Blues” are included below. If you like them, then you’ll enjoy the album from start to finish.

J. Tillman – Steel on Steel

J. Tillman – James Blues

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody January 14, 2009 at 6:53 am

Phil Collins sucks. He was a phenomenal drummer for Genesis but once he came out from behind the kit, he ruined one of the great prog-rock acts of the 70s by turning them into a cheesy 80s act. Not to mention his solo work is nauseating.

I like J Tillman though.

DBT Chicago January 14, 2009 at 7:44 am

i wonder what other current indie-rock drummers are clawing to break free from their bands.

oz January 14, 2009 at 8:41 am

I wouldn’t necessarily say “clawing to break free.” Why not have your cake and eat it too? Tillman actually opens many shows for Fleet Foxes.

Tyler Ramsey of Band of Horses also released a solo album last year that’s similar to Tillman’s sound.

oz January 14, 2009 at 8:46 am

And Woody – You cannot deny the genius of the “Land of Confusion” video. Those puppets were amazing for their time. Like the 8th wonder of the world…or something.

How many people probably laughed (while pointing) when Phil Collins said he could be a front man? The man gives short, bald guys tremendous hope and a feeling of self-worth. I think they call it “Pseudio.”

DBT Chicago January 14, 2009 at 10:32 am

that was a bad choice of phrases. what i meant to convey was how many drummers — sometimes thought of as pseudo-musicians — are out there recording as frontpeople (singer/songwriters/guitarists), such as tillman, ramsey, etc? it’s an interesting dynamic to me. think how strange it would be to see pat carney out there strumming guitar and singing the blues?

Jim January 24, 2009 at 11:16 am

I’ve been following Tillman’s music for seven years, and honestly have never understood why he’s not a huge star. I think it must be that he’s not much of a self-promoter and actually seems to fear success.

ken white April 14, 2009 at 4:40 am

thought provoking

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