Album: Alex Dupree – Thieves review

by Craig Howieson

A rather special example of alt country and Americana, Thieves is a record that will become hard to part with

Sometimes the novels that stick with you are those you knew nothing about. Picked up from a shelf on a whim and leafed through until sentences become paragraphs, and paragraphs become chapters. And, before you know it, you are hooked – the timeless pull of good story writing proving too hard to steer yourself from. Pressing play on Thieves – the new record from Keeled Scales-signed, Alex Dupree – has the feel of being lassoed into a great American novel. Sitting shotgun with Dupree as he hurtles down a highway of outlaw country, his songs and characters quickly become companions, sources of torment and solace that make up a record that is hard to part with. 

These are stories about emerging from the rubble – the answers found in the dust of worlds imploding on both a micro and macro level. Informed by the Trump years and his own divorce, Dupree faces down harsh truths through the lenses of his narrators, and while never stumbling on definitive answers, his sight of the path that lays ahead is restored. The bones of this record were initially presented as little more than voice and guitar until producer and engineer, Michael Krassner (Califone, Simon Joyner, Boxhead Ensemble), caught him live and offered to help record them.

The partnership has resulted in a rather special example of alt country and Americana where Krassner’s production – similar in its stargazing grandeur to latter day Phosphorescent – marries with Dupree’s Smog inflected workmanlike charm. Ocean deep and miles wide, Thieves provides endless avenues to get lost in, in both its stories and musicianship. 

Opener, Toronto Reel, sets up a stall for the road ahead. Dupree barely stretches his voice, but already you can hear a hint of what is to come, and the (one can only assume) un-ironic use of mouth harp works perfectly in introducing an album that fully embraces its deep south country influences. The heist drama of Fake Diamond, False Powers is a barnstormer, and perhaps the most instant narrative of the record. But it is I’m Gonna Make You Mine that really hammers home Dupree’s songwriting chops – putting him alongside the likes of Jason Isbell in how to hang a song together.

You are best approaching Thieves without having heard a note, and treating it like you would a novel – dropping the needle and following the record through its natural course from start to finish. Like those favourite books you knew nothing about, it will become something to cherish and return to often.

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