Look, no question about it - there are beings and then there are things. If I ever wake up with my house on fire, flames licking at my heels, I'm grabbing my loved ones, the dog and the cat and we're out of there. We'll watch my possessions escape gravity as smoke and soot and sparks, and count ourselves lucky for the view.But anyone who says possessions have no true value at all is a bit more Buddhist than this acolyte cares to ever be. Tucked in various corners of my abode, there are toys... there are clothes... there are books... which have been with me so long, they've soaked up a smidgin of the spillage of my soul. There's a little bit of Craven in those objects, and I don't mean just the drool stains.For instance, there's a jacket in my closet I will never wear in public again. It doesn't fit right. It's torn in places. Its day is past. For all intents and purposes, it is bereft of life. It rests in peace; it isn't merely pinin' for the fjords. There's no sensible reason to keep that jacket. But I could never part with it. That jacket was on my shoulders during some of the finest and worst moments of my life. Its leather was what separated me from the 10 feet of asphalt I skidded across the time that truck hit me in New York City. It was what I was sweating in at the greatest concerts I ever saw. When I come across that jacket in my closet, it isn't just a "thing." It's comfort. I thought about that jacket the first time I listened to J.D. McPherson's debut album, "Signs & Signifiers." From its opening snare tattoo to the reverb-soaked guitar thrum of its title track, over which soars McPherson's hearty baritone, "Signs & Signifiers" offers up a heady dose of the same sort of lived-in, history-saturated comfort Craven's old jacket brings him. Although the album was originally released in 2010, it only received a national release in April of this year, when Rounder reissued it to much deserved acclaim. McPherson is the 35-year-old ex-punk rocker and former art teacher who has breathed new life into rhythm n' blues in a way no one could have seen coming. Whether kicking up his heels with swingers like "Country Boy" and "Scratching Circles," or burning through a slow, funereal groove like "A Gentle Awakening," McPherson makes an old, old sound seem young and fresher than any of the over-compressed, Autotuned hits being squeezed between FreeCreditReport.com ads on commercial radio.Recorded entirely on pre-digital analog equipment, the album's sound is simultaneously fat and phat - but you'll be skinnier after a few listens, because this is the sort of album that'll have you twisting harder than a diner dish rag. There are a lot of albums out there clamoring for your attention every day, but make no mistake about it: J.D. McPherson's "Signs & Signifiers" won't just fit your comfort zone - it'll flood it. Notes is supported by the Gay and Lesbian Fund, promoting heart health in cooperation with the American Heart Association.Craven Lovelace produces Notes, a daily cultural history of popular music, for KAFM 88.1 Community Radio, kafmradio.org. You can visit cravenlovelace.com for more of his musings on the world of popular culture.
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