Shrink-wrapped emotions don't have any place in the music of honky-tonk heroes like Dave Gleason. Gleason and his Wasted Days are welcome beacons for folks craving roots tunes with genuine heart.
Gleason's latest, Just Fall to Pieces, follows in the beer-stained footsteps of 2004's Midnight California. It's a jamboree of heartbreak, hard drinkin', and hopelessness, driven by Gleason's distressed vocals, and delivered with a hint of dark humor. When he sings about the rewards awaiting misers in the afterlife on "Rusty Ol' Halo" "a rusty ol' halo, a skinny white cloud and a robe so wooly it scratches" you don't know if he's talking about heaven or purgatory. The conjunto-flavored "(Wine) Take Away My Mind" is a tragic tale of regret, the portrait of a rejected Romeo who sighs that a "glass of wine is all that I'll hold tight."
The Wasted Days are fleshed out on disc with guitar stars Albert Lee and Jim Capilongo, the multi-talented Michael Montalto, and pedal steel god Joe Goldmark. The band's twangadelic Bakersfield bounce, seasoned with a bit of garage rock and guttersnipe attitude, makes the tunes bristle like an angry drunk at closing time. Gleason's songwriting also absorbs outlaw country along the way. Hints of Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Gram Parsons float through the mix, and on "Couldn't Give You Anything," Gleason's brokenhearted yelp and Richard Chon's wailing fiddle convey a credible impression of Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys. With the exception of Buck and Merle, nobody in California ever got rich playing pure country music, which makes Gleason's dedication to the lonesome lament even more remarkable.