There is weirdness emanating out of Hightstown, New Jersey, and its name is Bruce Hanson. Armed with oddball, semi-brilliant compositions containing humor, verve, alacrity, mysteriousness and a deep abiding reverence for such influencing fellow oddballs as Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and Alfred Hitchcock, Hanson has independently unleashed the seventh album of Fellaheen, Death & Frolic.
Joe Borthwick on upright bass, Mark Orlandini on drums, Dan Trent on guitar/dulcimer and Kerry Watson on drums/percussion help provide the dreamy soundscapes, but it’s Hanson’s show. He wrote it, sings it, produced it and plays guitar, keyboards, banjo and percussion.
Sometimes the songs play out as a cinematic noir soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist. Hanson plays the world-weary, self-destructive private dick hellbent on solving the vicissitudes of his own psyche. “Oath” goes jazz with an avant-garde saxophone as Hanson whisper-sings his eternal findings like Bob Dylan on Quaaludes.
Somehow, it’s all so European. And just like how Leonard Cohen’s voice is often caressed by soothing female harmonics, Hanson’s is surrounded by atmospheric niceties that keep his gruffness and idiosyncratic individuality in check. Heady stuff: quirky, memorable, loaded with an intangible something not quite definable but catchy enough to make you want to keep returning to it.