Vic Chesnutt
North Star Deserter


3.5
great

Review

by Andrew H. EMERITUS
September 16th, 2007 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fugazi's Guy Piciotto teams up with A Silver Mt Zion and various other guests to assist Vic Chesnutt on his eleventh album.

The words "criminally underrated" are never used in a more fitting manner than when they are applied to Vic Chesnutt. A quadriplegic since the age of 18, Chesnutt has been recording since the beginning of the 90s and despite having little mainstream exposure in that period, has caught the eye of numerous other musicians and artists such as Michael Stipe of R.E.M. (who produced Chesnutt's first two albums). On North Star Deserter, Chesnutt is joined by high-profile guests such as Guy Piciotto of Fugazi, the entirety of A Silver Mt. Zion and Bruce Cawdron of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

At the risk of making the most obvious possible statement, when you put Canada's premier post-rock ensembles in a room with arguably one of the greatest songwriters of recent times and throw in a core member of one of the world's most celebrated punk bands and a number of members from varying other groups associated with the Constellation record label, the result is going to be interesting. Ultimately, North Star Deserter ends up being unmistakably a Vic Chesnutt album, but with the added flavours of each guest. Resultantly, the album is ambient, sparse and wholly organic. Howard Bilerman's production effort is dry but airy and perfectly suits the acoustic nature of the instruments.

North Star Deserter's songs are a mishmash of long epics, standard length songs and a couple of shorter pieces. While the presence of a full band makes the longer tracks interesting, it's generally the shorter, more subdued tracks that the strongest. North Star Deserter's highlight and closing piece, "Rattle", is also its shortest at just 1:29 (half of which is an ambient intro). It's lyrics are simple ("Keeping it on the road/Keeping it on the road/Can't say I didn't rattle below/But I'm keeping it on the road"), but come to life when paired with Chesnutt's distinctive voice and beautiful acoustic guitar part. Other songs such as the stripped-down "Wallace Stevens" or the Nina Simone cover "Fodder On Her Wings" consist simply of guitar, vocals and string/wind accompaniment from the members of A Silver Mt. Zion. "You Are Never Alone" and later track "Debriefing" make use of a full band and provide a welcome variation in dynamics.

Chesnutt's lyrics are probably the album's biggest asset, being simultaneously witty and cynical. The upbeat "You Are Never Alone" provides possibly the best example of this, with Chesnutt describing a variety of life-changing events (abortions, religious conversions and quadruple bypasses, for example) and then telling the subjects of the song to simply "keep on keeping on", despite the enormity of such events. What ties all of North Star Deserter's songs together is the weathered feeling that each track emits, due in no small part to Chesnutt's lyrics and matured voice. Ultimately, Chesnutt has created something earthy and beautiful with North Star Deserter and at this point, its difficult to imagine another singer/songwriter bettering it this year.

Recommended Tracks
You Are Never Alone
Fodder on Her Wings
Rattle



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user ratings (17)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Neoteric
September 16th 2007


3243 Comments


Great review there Andrew.

I have never heard this and I actually doubt I'll check it out.

Spectrum
September 16th 2007


347 Comments


Wait. This dude is a quadriplegic? And he utilizes the entirety of ASMZ and other awesome dudes as guests on this album?
Do you know just how seriously I need to check this out? Great review.

Fort23
September 16th 2007


2475 Comments


Hmm yea this is definetly on my list of albums to check out. Great review too.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
September 16th 2007


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I thought no one was going to review this, so i was taking my time and of course with indulging in the record and then this. ughhhh

The Jungler
September 16th 2007


4827 Comments


sounds awesome, great review.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
September 16th 2007


2125 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I thought no one was going to review this, so i was taking my time and of course with indulging in the record and then this. ughhhh


Soz man . I've actually had this for a few months so I really should have done this earlier.

Two-Headed Boy
September 17th 2007


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah this sounds really good. Great work as usual.

plane
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2007


6094 Comments


This wasn't what I was expecting but a really solid album all the same. In the 3.5-4 range, and yeah, Rattle is so excellent.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
September 23rd 2007


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

soooo good. one of the best of 2007, personally.

CatfishJones
September 26th 2007


24 Comments


good review. i've got to get this.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
November 25th 2007


4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Splendid and Everything I Say are among my favorites, along with most of the album.

istaros
April 16th 2008


310 Comments


easily one of his best albums

Doppelganger
November 1st 2008


3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

awesome awesome album

stabbler
June 2nd 2010


1415 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

in my top 20 of all time

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
September 9th 2010


3768 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is so amazing.

porch
August 31st 2012


8460 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great album

stabbler
August 31st 2012


1415 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

can't believe this is already 5 years old



stabbler
January 9th 2014


1415 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

bumping....one day this will get the love it deserves



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