Before embarking upon a solo career, Louisiana born singer-songwriter Zachary Cale was a member of several college bands. By Zachary’s own admission, most were short-lived, and none of them were particularly successful. However, they taught Zachary Cale about stagecraft and songwriting. So when Zachary embarked upon a solo career, he was more than ready. He was ready to step out of the shadows, and take centre-stage.
Zachary however, knew that the road ahead wasn’t paved with gold. He had been around long enough to know that. Even getting spotted by a record company was tough. So much so, that the Zachary recorded his first five albums and sold them at gigs. His “debut” My Autumn’s Done Come was released in 2003. The following year, 2004 Zachary released Of Endless Spirit and The Sick List. Then in 2005, Zachary released House Of Cards and Keys To The City. These albums were Zachary’s calling card, and hopefully, would result in him being picked up by a record company. This happened later in 2005.
Later in 2005, Zachary Cale was about to release his debut album, Outlander Sessions on New World of Sound Records. He was twenty-seven, and living in New York. This was a long way from Louisiana, where he was born in 1978. Outlander Sessions reflected Zachary’s personal journey.
Outlander Sessions was the first instalment in Zachary Cale’s musical autobiography. He examines subjects like “distance, isolation and alienation brought on by love.” Zachary also looks at his journey from rock guitarist to acoustic troubadour. That’s what Zachary Cale had become.
No longer were Dead Moon, Unwound and Pere Ubu inspirations. Instead, Tim Hardin, Townes Van Zandt and Peter Laughner inspired the now finger picking Zachary Cale. He announced his arrival in 2005, when Outlander Sessions was released on the New World of Sound Records. This was the start of ten year journey.
Since 2005, Zachary Cale has toured Britain, Europe and America several times, cofounded the independent label All Hands Electric and released four further solo albums. His most recent album, Duskland was recently released on the No Quarter Records. Duskland shows how far Zachary Cale has come.
Following the release of Outlander Sessions in 2005, Zachary Cale was invited to play at the CFA in Berlin. The Contemporary Fine Arts were hosting an art installation which was created by Jonathan Meese and Tal R. They needed someone to provide a musical accompaniment. Zachary fitted the bill, and proved a resounding success.
So much so, that once the installation left Berlin, Zachary was asked to accompany it. He found himself playing at the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, before moving on to the Frankfurt Art Fair. For Zachary, this was like a mini European tour. Even better, when the installation was setup at the Bortolami Dayan Gallery in New York, where Zachary lived, he was asked to perform. This brought his music to the attention of a much wider audience. So it made sense that later in 2005, Zachary began recording his sophomore album, Walking Papers.
Recording of Walking Papers took place in upstate New York. The studio chosen, was one of the most famous studios in musical history. Bearsville Sound Studios was where The Band, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison recorded some of their best albums. Some four decades later, Zachary Cale made the same journey as these musical legends.
The recording sessions began in the summer of 2005, with engineer Kevin Mcmahon guiding Zachary and his small band. However, Walking Papers wasn’t completed until the summer of 2006. Zachary headed to Bearsville Sound Studios when his schedule permitted. Eventually, Walking Papers was completed by the summer of 2006. It was mixed at Vacation Island by Matt Boynton in 2006. With Walking Papers completed, it was a case of finding a label willing to release the album.
That was easier said than done. With the music industry in a constant state of flux, Zachary struggled to find a label. This was no reflection on his music. Instead, it was the state of the music industry. Eventually, two years after Walking Papers was complete, Zachary found a solution to his problem.
With no sign of a record label willing to release Walking Papers, Zachary decided to found his own record label. His partners in the All Hands Electric label were visual artist Ryan Johnston and musician and graphic designer, Alfra Martin. Together, they cofounded All Hands Electric. Their new label released Walking Papers in the autumn of 2008.
Walking Papers wasn’t the first album released by All Hands Electric. That honour fell to Zachary’s other project, Illuminations.
Illuminations were an outlet for Zachary’s inner rocker. They combined Cosmic Americana, country soul, power pop, post rock and rock and roll on See-Saw. It was the first album released on All Hands Electric. See-Saw showcased a talented band with bags of potential. There’s a nod to Big Star, Gram Parson and The Wipers on See-Saw, where the Illuminations make their debut.
Sadly, See-Saw wasn’t a commercial success, and Illuminations didn’t released any more music until 2011. Before that, Zachary would release another two albums.
The first of these was Walking Papers. It was a very different album to Outlander Sessions. Gone was the lo-fi sound. Replacing it, was a much fuller, bigger production. This was well received by critics. They compared Zachary’s guitar playing to of John Fahey and his songwriting style to Townes Van Zandt. This wouldn’t be the last time Zachary was compared to the great and good of music.
Noise Of Welcome.
Three years passed before Zachary Cale released his third album, Noise Of Welcome. It featured another twelve tracks from the pen of Zachary Cale. These songs were recorded at a variety of locations, including the Vocation Island studios, where parts of Noise Of Welcome was mixed. Once the rest of Noise Of Welcome was mixed at Seaside Lodge, all thoughts turned to the release of Zachary Cale’s third album.
Another year passed before Noise Of Welcome was released in 2010. All Hands Electric weren’t rushing the release of Noise Of Welcome. They were determined that Zachary Cale had every chance of making a commercial breakthrough.
When the release of Noise Of Welcome was announced, it was All Hands Electric’s thirteenth release. This proved not to be unlucky for Zachary Cale. Noise Of Welcome was well received by critics. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Noise Of Welcome. It was an eclectic album, where Zachary combined tender acoustic ballads, electric country, instrumentals and perfect pop that’s been inspired by The Kinks. It’s a captivating combination of music, that found a champion in Dan Bejar.
Not longer after this, singer-songwriter Dan Bejar heard Noise Of Welcome. He started championing Zachary Cale. Soon, people were starting to take notice of the New York based singer-songwriter. Despite what many of his new fans believed, Zachary Cale was no newcomer to music. He was an experienced singer, songwriter and musician, who would soon, begin recording his fourth album.
For his fourth album, Zachary Cale had written eight new songs. These songs were with a small, tight band. Two of the four musicians who played on Blue Rider, only played on one track each. For the rest of Blue Rider, there was a much more minimalist sound. It seemed Zachary was determined to constantly reinvent himself.
That proved to be the case. When Blue Rider was released in September 2013, critics heard another side of Zachary Cale. His trademark vocal delivered folk ballads and country rock. Other tracks are instrumentals, featuring Zachary’s guitar. These tracks are the perfect showcase for Zachary’s picking style. They were part of another eclectic album, one that won over critics.
Just like Noise Of Welcome, critical acclaim accompanied the release of Blue Rider. Critics compared Zachary Cale to Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Donavon, Nick Drake and John Martyn. Other critics compared Zachary’s picking style to John Fahey. Belatedly, Zachary Cale had come to the attention of critics. That’s despite ten years of touring and recording.
Previously, Zachary Cale had released nine albums, four on record labels and toured Britain, Europe and America, playing some of the biggest festivals. He had opened for Michael Chapman, Kurt Vile, Robin Hitchcock, Martha Wainwright and The Black Swans. However, only now was Zachary Cale winning friends and influenced people. While it had taken ten years, it was starting to pay off. So, Zachary began work on his fifth album Duskland.
Following the success of Blue Rider, Zachary Cale’s thoughts turned to his fifth album. He penned nine new tracks, and these new songs became Duskland, which was recorded at Vacation Island.
When recording of Duskland began, Zachary Cale was accompanied by a tight and talented band. Some of the band had worked with Zachary on previous albums. While some musicians feature throughout Duskland, some musicians feature on just one of two tracks.
That’s the case with the rhythm section. Three drummers play on Duskland. This includes Ryan Johnson who adds a rhythm machine and xylophone, while Otto Hauser and Erman Schmidt both play drums and percussion. However, Erman also plays the piano. They’re joined in the rhythm machine by bassist James Preston and Zachary on acoustic guitar, electric, 12-string and slide guitar. Zachary also adds piano, synths and vocals. They were augmented by pianist Robert Boston, organist Phil Glauberzon and trumpeter Carter Yasutake. Brady Sanson on lap steel and Philip Sterk on pedal Steel add a country influence. Alfra Martini adds harmonies throughout Duskland. Together, this tight, talented band played Duskland which was recorded, mixed and mastered by Matt Boynton. Once Duskland was completed, it was released on No Quarter on 7th August 2015. Duskland, which I’ll tell you about, is Zachary Cale’s fifth album in ten years.
Sundowner opens Duskland. The rhythm section and pericsion combine to create a slow, dreamy backdrop. Zachary adds washes of post rock slide guitar. They quiver and shiver, before Zachary delivers the lyrics. They’ve a cinematic quality, which he brings to life. That’s the case from Zachary sings the opening lines: “sundown on the western plain, all is calm, you know I feel no pain.” Later, as he sings: “branded as a fugitive, dressed as an innocent man, sirens ricochet,” scenes unfold before your eyes. It’s like a short story set to music. Meanwhile, Zachary’s vocal veers between distraught, wistful and hopeful, as he strums his acoustic guitar. Behind him, a moody, atmospheric soundscape unfolds, creating the perfect backdrop to this cinematic song.
It’s just drums and Zachary’s chiming, mesmeric acoustic guitar that rings out on Blue Moth. Soon, Zachary’s delivering an impassioned vocal. He’s accompanied by a prowling bass, as he tells how he’s always drawn back, like a “moth to flame.” Is is it a tale of true love or infatuation? Most likely, it’s true love. That becomes apparent as Zachary sings: “when every dull pain that takes host in my brain, is washed away when in the face of my love.”
I Left the Old Cell has a sparse, pared back introduction. It’s just Zachary playing his acoustic guitar. That’s until his country-tinged vocal enters. Soon, washes of lap steel add to the country sound. Meanwhile, Zachary delivers a tortured, thoughtful vocal. He reflects on the life he’s lead, and things he’s done wrong, and is determined not to make them again. “So many lives I’ve lived, I’ve got to bury them now, no surprises this time round, beneath this crown.”
Just a rhythm machine, acoustic guitar and synths combine on Evensong. The arrangement grows in power, as if it’s determined to grab your attention. That proves to be the case. Especially, when Zachary adds a melancholy vocal. It’s accompanied by harmonies and a firmly strummed guitar. Sadness and frustration fill Zachary’s vocal. There’s also an air of mystery as he sings: “a game of chance has placed you here, yet isolation brings no tears, you’ve come to terms with those fears.” These poignant, thoughtful lyrics leave you to wonder who they were about, and what the circumstances were?
Basilica is the only instrumental on Duskland. It’s best described as a two minute soundscape. Zachary plays his acoustic guitar, before percussion, drums and a weeping pedal steel combine. They’re joined by synths and a wistful trumpet. The result is a quite beautiful, melancholy soundscape.
The tempo is slow, as Zachary unleashes a choppy guitar solo on Dark Wings. Soon, he’s joined by the rhythm section and Hammond organ. Zachary’s vocal is akin to a confessional. He confesses his sins, the mistakes he’s made and the wrong turnings he’s taken. Cooing harmonies are added, as a tormented Zachary confesses: “my heart is not at peace.” By then, Zachary sounds like John Lennon on this heartfelt confessional.
Slow, deliberate and moody describes the introduction to I Forged the Bullet. Anger and determination fill Zachary’s voice, as he sings: “I Forged the Bullet, the one that will strike you dead, I built the coffin, that one day will be your bed.” With a Nu Country arrangement for company, Zachary Cale becomes a musical outlaw, with one thing on his mind…revenge.
From the distance, Changing Horses’ arrangement unfolds. Drums rumble, guitars play as the arrangement grows in power. It takes on a country rock sound, as Zachary delivers a drawling vocal. He becomes a sage, warning that: “you can’t change horses now, you can’t undo what’s already done…you can’t turn back the clock on this one.” Nor is it possible to: “vanish without trace.” The way Zachary delivers the lyrics, it’s as if he was forsaken for another. Anger, frustration and sadness fills his voice as he delivers the lyrics. That’s until he sings: “but all that you want, is somewhere to live out your years, beyond the charade.” By then, he’s empathising and sympathising with her plight. Just like other tracks on Duskland, Zachary Cale proves a talented storyteller, whose cinematic lyrics are like a short story set to music.
Closing Duskland is Low Light Serenade, seven-and-a-half minute epic. It opens with Zachary picking his acoustic guitar and delivering a lived-in vocal. Straight away, Zachary sounds like Bob Dylan. Behind him, the rhythm section provide a slow heartbeat and washes of lap steel are unleashed. Soon, a wistful trumpet plays. Meanwhile, Zachary, delivers his Dylan-esque vocal, bringing the evocative and cinematic lyrics to life. Zachary sings of a homecoming: “only to return to familiar shores.” This allows the character in the song to heal. “Now’s the time for healing, before you upon that trail, you tend to all your wounds.” This proves a poignant, thoughtful and moving way to close Duskland, Zachary Cale’s fifth album.
For Zachary Cale, Duskland marks a coming of age. It’s without doubt, the best album of his career. Everything it seems has been leading to Duskland.
As albums go, Duskland is the most accomplished of Zachary Cale’s career. He’s been releasing albums since 2003. He released his first five albums without a label. Instead, he sold them at concerts. Then in 2005, Zachary released Outlander Sessions on New World Of Sound Records. Since then, Zachary Cale has released three further albums between 2008 and 2013. With each album, Zachary Cale improved, and matured as a singer-songwriter and musician. Now thirty-seven, Zachary Cale has come of age with the most eclectic album of his career.
On Duskland, Zachary Cale seamlessly flits between Americana, country, country-rock, Neo Folk and rock. He’s just as comfortable singing country, as he is singing Neo Folk. Zachary Cale is a truly versatile singer, one whose capable of writing incisive, cerebral and cinematic lyrics. They tell stories, stories of people’s lives, their happiness, hopes, hurt and heartbreak. These songs come to life on Duskland. It’s a career defining album from Louisiana born troubadour, Zachary Cale who musically comes of age on Duskland, which is a near flawless opus.