Sure, they hand out perfect scores with the discretion of a drunken rock-radio deejay at the local Hooters’ bikini contest, but there are also times when the British music press ballyhoos a deserving American act long before the stateside scribes catch wind. Micah P. Hinson is one of these cases. Largely ignored in his native land, his debut, Micah P. Hinson and the Gospel of Progress, was held high by critics across the Atlantic. Deservedly so; the disc is a potent collection of country-noir, recalling a dustier Leonard Cohen and introducing Hinson’s songwriting prowess with great authority.
The Late Cord is a two-man operation, combining Hinson’s singer-songwriter abilities with John-Mark Lapham’s (of the Earlies) electronic know-how. This band is a true side-project for both men, and the EP’s uneven nature shows a lack of cohesion between the two. Even the best songs feel like they were written by separate people at separate times and later combined; you can hear the layers all too well, knowing which part was contributed by Hinson and which by Lapham. That said, there are still some nice tracks to be found on this short release.
Churchy organs open the EP with “Lila Blue,” a deceptively long track that drags along like a staggered ghost through a graveyard, but I mean that in the best sense. Lapham has his way with the song for the first few minutes, adding oddly familiar samples (one that sounds like the whiz of a laptop when it loads a CD) to the gathering organ until Hinson’s distant baritone begins to ruminate about some past girlfriend — Lila Blue, perhaps?
“My Most Meaningful Relationships Are With Dead People” is the album’s only other great song. It brings Hinson’s voice up to the front with a repetitive chorus of chants layered over Lapham’s simple piano progression. This is a very straightforward yet powerful song, one that has the slow, sinking feeling that the album’s title seems to suggest.
The final track, “Hung on the Cemetery Gates,” hardly qualifies as such and simply takes up space on an EP where time is a premium. Four-minutes-and-thirty-six seconds of mostly uninteresting and unpleasant noises puts the EP to an underwhelming sleep.
Lights From the Wheelhouse gets major points for potential; standing on its own, the record doesn’t do all that much. But with the more organic confluence of Hinson and Lapham’s skills that will come from time working together, they could create on their upcoming full-length what Digital Ash in a Digital Urn hoped to be.
“My Most Meaningful Relationships Are With Dead People” MP3 (Right Click Save As)