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Dakota Suite - This River Brings Only Poison

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 27 / 10 / 2003

Dakota Suite - This River Brings Only Poison
Label: Glitterhouse Records
Format: CD


Latest offering from melancholic Leeds-based alternative rockers, Dakota Suite, whose delicate melodies prove perfect late night listening

Based in Leeds and fronted by Chris Hooson, Dakota Suite produce a sound that at its most melodic sounds like the Pernice Brothers with touches of Lambchop thrown in for good measure. This release which could be the band’s third full-length album-it’s difficult to tell really as there are singles compilations, instrumental albums, mini albums and EPs and singles scattered about as well-has the involvement of two ex- American Music Club members; Bruce Kaphan who co-produced and co-mixed the album as well as playing pedal steel and mellotron and Tim Mooney who plays drums. But this is far removed from an American Music Club sound. The music Dakota Suite produce can have the same effect as American Music Club, however; it can be heartbreaking at times, and Hooson’s vocals match those of AMC’s Mark Eitzel for emotion but Hooson almost whispers the lyrics in contrast to Eitzel’s passionate rasp. Being a late comer to the band it’s frustrating trying to find out some background information on the group members or even when the band was formed. I do know that the band was named after the New York City apartment block where John Lennon was shot down and that they were releasing records as far back at least as 1998. Chris Hooson works full time as an advisor in a probation centre and does not seem like a man who has had too much happiness in his life. But he has the ability to turn his misery into the most beautiful and heart stopping songs for us all to hear. On Hooson’s website he has a dig at Glitterhouse Records as they apparently have stated that Dakota Suite will be working with Van Dyke Parks in the future. Much as it seems Hooson would like to collaborate with the man who has helped out Brian Wilson and Loudon Wainwright to name but two, he claims it is not true. Hooson also writes on his site that the future hasn’t begun to look any brighter to him and that he finds releasing records a painful process. Let’s hope that things turn around and he continues to make records because there is a place in all our lives for the sounds he produces on ‘This River Only Brings Poison’. Hooson’s melodies take a while to reveal their beauty; for the most part they are not instant tunes one can hum along to after only one play. But after three or four listens they get under the skin. Horns and strings all add to the soundscape Hooson and his band create. To call the instrumentation lush would be an understatement and coupled with Hooson’s atmospheric hushed vocals the sound is riveting. It’s not background music. It's best listened to in those reflective early morning hours when all is quiet, listening is not disturbed and one can get wrapped up and drift away in the delicate melodies. Attention is also needed to grasp the beauty of Hooson’s lyrics. They tend to hide within the melody and again, it takes a few plays before they register. Standout tracks are track 6, ‘Sand Fools The Shoreline’, where Laura Donohue adds some gorgeous harmony vocals and ‘How Safe We Must Seem’ which again features Donohue on harmonies and some particularly fine pedal steel from Bruce Kaphan. Only 13 tracks are listed on the CD inlay but there are, in fact, 14. The last track being an instrumental which is very possibly the most moving non-vocal track I’ve heard in years. From the striking images on the cover to the beautiful sounds on the record this is an album which I will return to again and again over the following months; my only gripe would be that one does have to strain to hear Hooson’s lyrics at times. As they are worth hearing it would have been nice if the lyrics had been printed in the CD inlay.

Track Listing:-
1 the lepers companion (LP)
2 boats in a sunken ocean (LP)
3 the finished river
4 lets share wounds
5 verdriet
6 sand fools on the shoreline
7 lets be on our own
8 the ferris wheels of winter
9 we made it rain
10 how safe we must seem
11 pillows in the water
12 matching eyes and hands
13 the space around your sleeping
14 love gun (bonus track)
15 one for the shoeshine man (bonus track)
16 when I think of myself dead (bonus track)
17 the streets were all I saw (bonus track)
18 untitled (bonus track)

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Waiting For The Dawn To Crawl Through And Take Away Your Life (2007)
Downbeat and understated, but totally compelling and eventually life-affirming new album from Dakota Suite, the band of Leeds based probation officer Chris Hooton

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