Vacilando_Territory_BluesJ. Tillman captures the night. There’s something about the voice, the melody, the lyrics that write an image of the early hours, the dead hours, when retrospection and introspection turn into hallucinations. When a soft voice singing in a way that compels a voice from your own throat. There is nowhere to hide at this time, nothing can stop the flow of your thoughts. But it’s a place where a voice singing in just such a way, a melody playing a particular chord change, can feel like two fingers plunged into your chest.Based on his previous albums we know that he can deliver stark, spare songs that shed incidental light on vignettes (Long May You Run), orchestrated ones that shade in and colour personal woes (Minor Works), and the perfect dose of both those styles with added inscrutable lines (Cancer And Delirium). With Vacilando Territory Blues he carries all of this forward and adds in a little bit of country, blues, rock, and some bright daylight in the form of a small amount of positive lyrics. Through these elements he successfully manages to avoid sounding like he is re-making anything he has done before.There's ‘Barter Blues’ with it’s slide guitar, twangs, blues-y drunkenness, and fire and redemption lyrics ‘I met you on the way to Heaven…I can’t forgive for those you sinned against/It’s too late to act like you don’t know me’, and ‘Steel On Steel’ which curls off pieces of country guitar. ‘New Imperial Grand Blues’ struts with it’s raucous sax, electric guitar and thudding rhythm, like a bloodied-nose barroom brawl. With tracks like ‘No Occasion’ and ‘Laborless Land’ he is still in the comfortable mode of the Americana brushed singer-songwriter, but there are some delightful extras in the shape of skewed strings for the former and woodwinds and backing vocals for the latter, and it is pleasing to see these extras crop up in most places where there lack would be felt, (although songs like ‘Vessels’ and ‘Someone With Child’ perhaps still have this lack).Tillman again comes up with lyrics that glimmer with light, dark and silver, lyrics that take time to pick apart. Family, religion and looking back at life are the main themes that keep coming up here, often all in the same song, roaming through regret, bitterness and an inner peace. There is a clutch of songs where the words are weighted with the past, or the realities of growing older, ‘Laborless Land’ has the lines ‘I don’t need a song to tell me/I don’t need old histories’ warning/For what I saw that blood-red on and/Daylight’ where a strong memory is surfacing at night, ‘James Blues’ features a man struggling with monogamy and the leaden weight of a failing relationship started in a youth seemingly long since passed.This stuff bleeds over into familial themes, on ‘Someone With Child’ a ‘stain’ that never comes out is taken up by a son from his mother, her suicide leaves a heavy legacy which is heartbreakingly put by Tillman in a few lines, and followed up by the stunning, ‘Before unexpectedly you were hollowed out by grief/The clipped glory of your youth’. There’s more gloom with ‘Steel On Steel’, the curse of a wrong decision stays with the protagonist, ‘What a curse/What a life/Destined to survive/And relive every night/Like my hands were tied’, these lines coming in an achingly beautiful break in the otherwise jaunty music, just a guitar and cracking voice.But it’s not all hardships, ‘No Occasion’ ends up sweet with sentiments of ‘I don’t want to live again/Because I don’t want this life to end’, showing a strong relationship that went right. Again a song dealing with family, ‘Vacilando Territory’ has the refrain ‘You’re my brother’ leaking love all over the place amid gorgeous imagery such as ‘A 5 day journey through the pan-handle morning’ and ‘All our plans were sitting on the skyline’. A connection between two people is revealed, one that enables them to feel a strong kinship, despite being unrelated, ‘The way you spoke about the unknown/Shook my 25 year old bones/And made me unsure I was someone’s only son’. ‘Above All Men’ acts as a sort of blueprint for a better life by listing the basic foundation you need to be happy, ‘If you have a days work/And a good word/And a night’s rest after keeping/Company of your friends/And a woman to greet the morning with’ then you are ‘blessed above all men’.The rural tone found with the better known Fleet Foxes has always resided in Tillman’s music, but he has a lyrical talent that appeals to me personally a whole lot more than what you find with his better-known outfit. With long-time collaborator Kory Kruckenberg (engineering/producing) Tillman has swelled into a fine songwriter, whose songs get the treatment they deserve. Now if only they got the audience they deserved too, although looking at the press quotes on his myspace, and the artist bio on the Bella Union site, he doesn't seem to be that bothered.80%J. Tillman on MySpace