Album Review: Chris Watkins & Drunk Poets -“Lights All Askew”

There are some singer/songwriters whose music stays with you long after hearing it, drawing you back for another listen. Chris Watkins and his band Drunk Poets make that kind of music, reminiscent of Bob Dylan, Shawn Mullins and Lou Reed – simple, pure and honest, but always with a compelling story. His smooth low-key vocals are incredibly soothing to the ear, yet at the same time quite powerful.  Following up on their superb 2015 album London Can Take It, Watkins/Drunk Poets dropped their latest album Lights All Askew in July 2016, and it’s another work of musical art.  Drunk poetry indeed!

chris-watkins

Hailing from Alaska, which he still calls home, Watkins formed his original version of the Drunk Poets band when he was just 16 years old. He has continued performing and recording under the band name Drunk Poets – with various members – throughout the years and up to the present.  (Currently, Drunk Poets consists of Watkins, Eric Cobb and Watkins’ niece, who provides the lovely backing vocals.)  They play a beguiling style of alternative folk-rock that’s primarily acoustic, with awesome guitar and harmonizing vocals.

The beautiful title track “Lights All Askew” is a rather somber ballad with a mesmerizing, repetitive guitar riff and gently crashing cymbals. In his smoldering voice, Watkins sings:

“Bright red and blue, lights all askew in the twilight. The snow on the sidewalk like wool from the December sky. The rumbles of headlights that shimmer in spite of the cold. Black witches burning in purity fires of old.  And the darkness is waiting for thee.”

Watkins told me the song was inspired by the Northern Lights, which he has the pleasure of experiencing in his home state.

My favorite track on the album is “Dark Old Houses,” a captivating song that seems – to me at least – to be about loss and the passage of time.

“Yesterday I saw a flock of geese over the rooftops. With snow on the wing and an auburn sun overhead.  Like businessmen in shoddy suits at a funeral. Running for public office in the rain. Carpenters under the gun. Wrestle hammers from the wall. Shingles shiver in the gust. When the winter comes to call, on dark old houses.”

Musically, the song features a pleasing guitar riff with an undercurrent of gentle violin. I literally had this on repeat a half dozen times while composing this review.

Another personal favorite is the anti-war song “Munich.” I love the lyrics “I never made it to the revolution. The taste of teargas took its toll.” and the chorus “Tell me when the heathens reach the wall; I need some information.”

The other songs on the album – “Lasses and Ladies,” “Cheerleader in Love,” “Looking Glass Life,” “Soldiers and Dogs,” “Ivory Towers,” “Broken Gate” and “Souls Midnight” – are all exceptional.

On a side note, in an interview with heathmusicblogger, Chris stated his very first album purchase was Meet the Beatles, which also happens to be my own very first album purchase. That, plus the fact that he’s a nice guy who’s extremely supportive to his fans and followers, makes him a legend in my book!

Support Chris & Drunk Poets by following him on Twitter, liking him on Facebook, and subscribing to his YouTube channel. His music is available for streaming on Soundcloud or Spotify, or purchase on itunes or Amazon.

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