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"Silence is Golden"
"Lost Episodes"

Lost Episodes & Dusty Tales

Last week I unexpectedly received in the mail, a copy of RLH’s latest contribution to the downfall of Western civilization: The Lost Episodes & Dusty Tales.  

It took me a few days to steel my nerves to actually insert the CD in my stereo and allow its essence to invade my atmosphere.  Half a bottle of bourbon later and I was ready.  I have now listened through it about a dozen times and consumed a fair bit more bourbon in the process. One of these sessions was inflicted on my long-suffering partner who continues to be unfazed and perversely likes it (I need to get her checked out). On the first listening, I was merely flabbergasted.  On the second, a spiritual numbness set in: “Yes, he really sang that song like that and, with depraved indifference, recorded it too”.  Subsequent listening has only continued this downward trajectory.

In a nutshell, Lost Episodes is the obvious logical progression from Silence is Golden…Let’s Get Rich, His first CD release.  It includes eight brand new audio ruminations by RLH where, once again, he wrestles with the slings and arrows, the pangs and pong of loss, love, life and the hollow absurdity of it all.  As usual we are treated to RLH’s unique vocal styling.  We listen and we marvel: there is melody and there is interpretive phrasing, it is music, but perhaps not as we know it.  After due consideration we come to the conclusion that, metaphorically, RLH is more Jackson Pollock
then a Wyeth.  The vocal picture he paints is expressive, perhaps, a sense of controlled chaos.  After much experience, I can report that it is an acquired taste for those who are prepared to endure — much like an appetite for raw oysters or naughty-time with mayonnaise, trampoline & rope.   

RLH is accompanied by some fine musicians who bravely try their level best to hold on for dear life as RLH runs amok through melody and metre. However, we shall cut them some slack and give credit where it is due. Clearly, musically accompanying RLH is much like attempting to ride a drunken camel in a sandstorm — you really don’t stand a chance, no matter how adept you are or how tenaciously you flail at the reins. Still, they manage some successes and provide solid musical accompaniment to deliver the inventive arrangements by Luba Dvorak, Dan Jessie & RLH, which are appropriate, and suit the material well.

Some of the tracks that otherwise stand out — include the folk-rock Citywoman featuring Luba Dvorak’s twangy lead lines & slide guitar.  Not to be outdone, RLH responds with a uniquely abstract approach to acoustic rhythm guitar, which, even after repeated listening, I still cannot fathom.  That his fellow musicians somehow can, is a testament either to their musical acumen or their ability to hold their liquor — not sure which.  
We also get the eponymous track The Lost Episodes, a laid back, alt-country affair that reiterates RLH’s quaint, rose-tinted view of the past as he persists in proudly wearing his bittersweet nostalgia like a badge of honour on the lapel of his present.  No one does “those were the good old days, old friend, long gone, long gone…” better than RLH.  He really believes in those good old days.  Personally, I can’t remember what I did yesterday, so I’ll have to take RLH’s word for it.

Following in the tradition of Joe Jackson’s Fools in Love and Loudon Wainwright’s People in Love, RLH adds to this august canon of smug disdain with his own take on the dumbness of falling in love with Fools & Lovers, which is the most upbeat track of the set and kind of fun — assuming, of course, that you find futile sarcasm set to the beat of a Cajun Bo-Diddley accompaniment your idea of fun.  Takes all kinds.

Know That You’re Mine is a straight-forward unpretentious love song, which is actually quite beautiful.  As I’ve noted before; the majority of RLH’s musical encounters with women and love tend to end in tears, but when things work out, he is actually rather adept at putting it down in words and melody in a way that is quite affecting.  He is accompanied here by the female vocalist Yoriko, who provides a ghostly Translation (sung, I believe, in Japanese) to RLH’s rather more earthy call.  If Yoriko is in any way as lovely as she sings, she is someone very lovely indeed.  What she’s doing hanging around RLH is clearly one of those inscrutable mysteries of the East.

Plyhouse90/Embers and Starwatch are further examples of RLH’s leaning toward melancholy and sombre drama.  The arrangements and accompaniment are particularly well realized being, on the one hand, quite restrained and yet still vividly dramatic.  The spaghetti western fuzz guitar in Starwatch is especially evocative.  I can almost visualize RLH appearing on the edge of a shimmering heat hazed horizon, astride a black horse, wrapped in a poncho with a squinty sneer and churchwarden pipe hanging from his lips. Well, I did say almost.        

The collection is bookended by episodes of an ersatz radio show The Adventures of Dusty Withers, Famous Sidekick to which we are treated (or punished depending on your definition of masochism) to, not one, but two episodes, though one is mercifully much shorter than the other.  I won’t ruin any possible “enjoyment” you may experience by revealing the “plots” of these adventures. Suffice to say that they feature RLH’s alter-ego, Dusty ‘Ya Coots!’ Withers, along with other dustycratic characters that inhabit some unspecified frontier at some indeterminate time.  The shows include atmospheric sound effects, a disturbingly convincing sponsorship commercial and a high-octane ear-worm of a theme song that is disgustingly catchy.  Be-gone ear-worm!  Be-gone! In fact, the production quality of these radio spots is surprisingly high and they very effectively evoke the 1950’s cowboy radio serial programmes they emulate; but, of course, with RLH’s usual twist (ughhh!).  Atypically for RLH, the Dusty episodes reveal him capable of delivering high form over low content.  Whatever high plain they’re drifting on, this is definitely dangerous territory. So if you find yourself groaning after listening to these, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Dusty shows aside, Lost Episodes is a more serious, dark and melancholic collection than Silence, but it follows on in Silence's tradition: a collection of songs that can't really be described as "slick" or "polished" but are strangely charming and affecting — in the same way your grandpa might have been, rocking in his chair & smoking his pipe out on the porch, telling that tale about what he and his little gang of rascals got up to down by the creek one summer.  You don't really want to know, but you hang on every word in spite of yourself and have a strange admiration for his tenacity.  RLH raises tenacity to a high art.  Listening to this collection, you and I may need some tenacity too.  Maybe some of it will rub off.

Q. Butler
Feb 2011

Silence Is Golden...Let's Get Rich

A "Silence" Review, A real Review!
[We swear RLH did not write this!]

"Silence is Golden...Let's Get Rich" is an eclectic mix of country, alt-folk and some styles that simply defy description - indeed, that defy comprehension.  Songs that tickle the innards and melt the cockles in a most peculiar and essentially indigestible way as they chronicle the ebb & flow of life, love, loss, hope, age and time with a clear lack of a sanity or probity.  Subtle nuances of Fats Waller, John Prine, Jimmy Buffet and Tom Waits are hinted at though, indeed, RLH's musical oeuvre is one that is best described as...unique.  There are certainly many other words that might more aptly describe the sonic onslaught that is "Silence", but most of them are unprintable.  Ah yes, steel yourself me hearties - for RLH goes for the jugular and takes no prisoners: and that means you, buster. 


So sit yourself down, grab an ice cold beer from the fridge, add a bourbon chaser to that - and while you're at it, grab a handful of barbiturates and do the job properly.  Slam that dodo in the CD changer - or for you modern-agers, upload that download into your digital audio doo-whatzit - pump up the volume and just try to relax.  Just try.  At times you'll want to laugh (though, admittedly seldom), at others cry (for instance: just before you press the "play" button), and at yet others the urge to perform indiscreet acts of cannibalism may overwhelm you.  Indeed, "Silence" is an experience not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but with fear and trepidation and barbecue sauce.  For, time and time again, like the remorseless pounding of a blue whale in a bungee jump, these tracks - some barely describable as music - will make your ears melt in disbelief.  Prepare for audio Armageddon - "Silence" is comin' atcha! 


Almost did it your way   

    Careful with your future young man.  RLH gives us this sly, sardonic comment on the pitfalls of LUV and the craftiness of the so-called fairer sex.  Herein, the testimony of a footloose and fancy free boy finding himself sucked into the abyss of commitment.  That would be her way.  Exit stage left.  A very close call, but our hero escapes just in the nick of time.  A laconic clarinet gives this track a laid-back 1920's gin joint resonance.


    Not sure if the pinto in question is a car or a horse, but it doesn't really matter - it's the ride that counts.  Join RLH on this poetic journey down a dusty road under a huge sky, across an infinite vista of warm sun and and cool wind - conjured up by a simply strummed guitar and a lilting violin.  A sweet nostalgia glides along on a melody that sticks in your mind and you find yourself humming when you least expect it.    


    RLH solos out on this tight, jaunty little number that pokes you right in the eye.   Maybe he aint gonna love no one but you - but he'll babble at you anyhow.  That's always been the case.  Nice to hear him having a good time for a change.  

Ashtray #1 

    A case of prurient desire meets the diet from hell tells the sad story of love at first bite dashed before the appetiser is even served.  A song that faces the truth about where a man's priorities really lie.  It's been said that a man's heart is in his stomach, but RLH's is in the humidor as well.  Just so.  A man must know his limitations, and here they're only an ashtray away - but for RLH, that is still an ember too far.             


    A quiet song of love and loss and a battered soul laid bare.  A candour that is almost unbearable:  listening to Autograph feels like eavesdropping on someone's inner pain.     

Everything has a price 

    Recorded live at the Surreal Oblivion, here's a pure out-and-out hick-town stomper.  Get out your cowboy boots and scream yee-ha.  She done him wrong - again it seems - and RLH has got something to say to her about that.  A sordid tale of trial and retribution whereby our protagonist metes out punishment on his faithless tormentor - as well as on you and the long suffering audience - by infliction of some truly amazing vocal stylings that could be described as a cross between yodelling and a wart-hog in a meat grinder, if they didn't actually sound much worse.  You've either gotta line dance or you've gotta cry. That's tough luv baby.  The moral of the story is:  don't mess with RLH, cause he's tough and he's also safe behind the chicken-wire.


    A lost, forgotten past, preserved in yellowed newsprint and rediscovered by accident.   A hidden mirror that reflects nothing is a ghostly metaphor for aging and a quiet reflection on the passage of time that we, and everything else, must endure.  A sombre, haunting tune.

Full Moon on the Water  

    The opening strains of a solo gypsy violin set the tone for this soft – yet sombre –love song.  Set in mostly minor chords there is a palpable aching of the heart as if this were a love so heavy that it can barely be borne.  The comparison of love with a full moon on the water expresses ambivalence.  An ethereal image: beautiful, majestic and mysterious – but of something far away and ultimately just an ephemeral reflection that constantly changes with the current and vanishes with the first cloud. 

Ashtray #2        

    And you thought beat poetry died in the 60s.  Well it's dieing here right now folks and the cadavers are in the house shaking their bones and squealing like demented harpies as RLH delivers a ranting monologue in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and Tom Waits except it sounds nothing like them at all. Where are RLH's marbles rolling to now?  It's tracks like this that make you wonder whether, this time, he has finally lost the plot entirely.  Hell if I know what it's about,  but as usual there's a woman involved - always a source of panic and terror in the world of RLH - and further proof, if any were needed, that he is definitely losing that mental strip-poker game being played out where the bus don't stop.     

Crazy / Queazy    

    A sleaze-back low-down bar-room blues.  Yet another woman doing the poor guy in.  Set 'em, up Joe, he needs one for his baby, two for the road - he'll be knocking 'em down tonight.  It's late in the hard city and our man is drowning his sorrows and memories of her, but there's just no solace in his glass.  Maybe you'll meet RLH in a bar just like this one on a night just like this one.  You've both been there and back.   You eye each other up cautiously and finally conclude that you might be long lost soldiers sharing an "Ice Cold in Alex" moment and proceed to say nothing to each other.  You understood each other perfectly.  This song is the reason why. Your round.

Time Passes Slowly 

    Here is yet another arrow from RLH’s eclectic and seemingly bottomless stylistic quiver that proves he knows a jazz chord or two (in fact, it may be exactly two).  Relax with your Saturday afternoon cappuccino in a quiet Soho bistro as this breezy Bossa Nova wafts through the air.  A delicate reflection on how her absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

Stay awhile (with me) 

    This laid back alt-country track’s got an unpretentious stand up, flick on your lighter, wave your hands in the air and “sing along on the chorus the next time it comes around on the guitar” kind of feel.  And here it comes around on the guitar again.  A mildly plaintive lyric contrasts with the fundamentally feel-good nature of the tune that puts a smile on your face and has you singing out loud as you walk out of the door.  An upbeat – yet bittersweet – end to the collection; will she stay awhile or not?

Q. ButlerUK Review, 21 August 2007, by Q. Butler


"WE didn't know who he was before the show, and we're still not sure!"
~one lively comment after an RLH concert in 1975
"Well, thank GOD he's gone back to whatever planet he came from!"
~such was one comment when RLH announced that he would no longer be appearing at the Walbert Inn's Famous Open Mic Night
RLH steadfastly maintains, "When one plays one's own songs, no one knows when one  is playing them wrong." But this is indeed Brevity devoutly
 to be wished.
"This collection proves once again that no matter the time span, it just doesn't get any better than this... no matter how hard RL tries to improve."

      Actually we only have an idea for the cover but we’ll be working on it, really we will.
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