Ola Podrida: Belly of the Lion
Western Vinyl

David Wingo follows up his Ola Podrida debut full-length (Plug Research, 2007) with Belly of the Lion, a bedroom-styled recording the Texas-born troubador wrote and recorded alone in his apartment ( the sole other contributor, drummer Matthew Frank plays on four songs). Modest in approach and, at thirty-six minutes, in length too, the collection is steeped in nostalgic remembrance of carefree afternoons wiled away in parents' basements ( “Your Father's Basement”) or at the local swimming hole ( the young lovers' exchange between Katie and Billy in “Sink or Swim”) . Created using a bare-bones instrumental arsenal of guitars, percussion, and vocals, the album plays like transcriptions of American short stories that Wingo relays in an atmospheric folk-rock style that's as likely to nod in a country direction ( “The Closest We Will Ever Be”) as a pastoral shoegaze one ( “Lakes of Wine”).

Wingo opens the album with “The Closest We Will Ever Be,” a laconic country shuffle that finds an electrified slow burn seeping into the song's choruses. Stormy guitar textures shudder throughout “We All Radiant,” which reads like a road movie tracking tortured souls across the desert plains. Like a trip down memory lane, “Your Father's Basement” recounts bored adolescents plundering a basement for skin magazines and locked-away booze while listening to Eric B. on the boom-box. Reflecting on the scrawled words in a notebook found by the roadside, Wingo casts a wistful gaze backwards during “Lakes of Wine,” while the peaceful state of mind he brings to “Monday Morning” (“Today I'm just gonna lay back, feel the grass against my skin”) is mirrored by the tranquil lilt of the song's hushed vocal melodies, sleigh bells, and dreamscaping guitars. Probably the most distinctive thing about Wingo's music is his voice which, with its nasal twang and sometimes fragile, even broken quality, can be—at least at first—a bit of an acquired taste. And the name, in case you're wondering? Wingo's first public performance involved dressing up as a mouse at the Olla Podrida Mexican market in Dallas, an event that obviously inspired the slightly modified alias.

October 2009