Whiskey chaser in hand and sat cozily in a snug saloon , the Dutch crooner confidently narrates the tribulations of life from the confines of a leather-bound antique chesterfield.
Last orders. We’ve all been there. That hollow echo from the bell rings in exultation, followed closely by a bellowing shriek of those two night-shattering words. The bartenders and floor staff gaze eagerly at the half-sunken pint glass sat proudly on the table in front of you, hinting at the presence of the exit door. Conversations are in mid-flow, the night dances to its own magically spontaneous tune, and that hankering feeling of wanting it to last forever grows ever more potent. But it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies. Taprooms and taverns are sacred places for those who need to drown their sorrows or wallow in self pity. Bartenders morph into self-educated therapists, offering salient advice to people from all walks of life; and this is the essence that Jasper Schalks has beautifully succeeded in detailing.
Accompanied by his eternal wisdom, the singer-songwriter looks up to find a lost soul slumped over the beer-soaked counter, to utter the phrase no hospitality worker would ever entertain. “Close the bar a little later” – he gingerly requests, with a hopeful grin etched apologetically across his face. If it wasn’t for the honeyed warmth of his vernacular, Schalks may have had to contend with a barrage of scorn faces, but this delicious slice of Americana cools the apprehension and cuts the tension like a serrated knife through the finest cut of Iberico pork.
With liquid confidence flowing through his veins, the virtuoso assembles a compendium of western influences into one astoundingly accomplished collage. Dylan meets Taylor on the plains of a spaghetti western. Slap-back guitar sizzles in the scorching midday sun with a resonant elasticity as the ravenous tread of coyote’s scuttle mischievously across the arid desert. Ironically, Schalk delivers his final glacé cherry moment in the opening 10 seconds, opening to a timeless metallic whistle of a harmonica that plunges the soundscape into a page from one of Neil Young’s scrapbooks.
The end result is an ageless, charismatic and perennial chapter that could bloom and thrive within any epoch. Schalks is an orchestrator of nostalgia with a deft ability to deliver a fresh and pseudo-modern take on vintage textures. I don’t know whether i’ll ever get to buy him a drink to say thank you for the satisfaction i got after listening to this record, so I guess i’ll have to raise a metaphorical toast instead.