Dean Wareham vs. Cheval Sombre by Dean Wareham & Cheval SombreRelease date: October 26, 2018
Label: Double Feature Records
Dean Wareham’s story is a bit of a strange one. The moment Galaxie 500’s Today was released, he became touted as the next big thing. For a reason. As the main man of that band, he was probably the best approximation of what Velvet Underground should sound like in a new age. But then, as he and Damon & Naomi went their separate ways, for some reason, things didn’t bode too well for him.
All that he did afterward was far away from shoddy or poor, whether it was as Luna as Dean & Britta or just under his own name, and it did amount to 14-15 albums or so in total without Galaxie. Actually, some of the Luna albums did have that something, but then, as if something else was missing.
And while Luna is back in operation after a long hiatus, here he is, re-interpreting a wide cannon of country & western (and the accent is on Western) songs with Cheval Sombre , or dark horse if you’re not familiar with French, or Chris Porpora, a good friend of his and somebody who has recorded for his Double Feature Records.
While not expecting much from Dean Wareham vs. Cheval Sombre, for whatever reason, and it could be the concept, the personal chemistry, other musicians that participate or all of the above, the album truly works. Somehow, that Galaxie 500 je ne sais quoi is back and the covers that range from traditional like “Wayfaring Stranger”, through country classics like Marty Robbins’s “The Band in the River”, Dylan’s take on c&w of “Tomorrow is a Long Time”, to some interesting visions of c&w like that of Stephen Merritt in his Magnetic Fields guise win “Grand Canyon”.
The standouts though are their version of Blaise Foley’s “If I Could Only Fly” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Greensboro Woman”, while their version of Lee Marvin doing “Wand’rin’ Star” from the Paint Your Wagon movie version embodies the spirit of the whole album and keeps the original crackling charm intact.
Whether Wareham is truly back in the saddle is to be seen, but Dean Wareham vs. Cheval Sombre is a great sign. Maybe he should keep that dark horse around for bit longer.