Opener “I Swear (To God)” sets the tone with a cantering celebration of à la carte good-time exploits with a side order of hankering for salvation, a theme taken up later in “Honky Tonk Flame” and “Whitehouse Road”, a swaggering country rocker in which the heady buzz of moonshine and cocaine is conveyed by the woozy twang of Jew’s harp.
The latter, a more forgiving addendum to his dyspeptic “Closed Hand, Full Of Friends”, is perhaps the best of the new material, while the show’s overall highlight is the closing “The Wild Swans On The Lake”, which best capitalises on Vance’s impassioned delivery.
A longtime celebrity Yeo Woon-gwang (Park Sung-woong) suddenly has a need for a bodyguard and hires Kim Seol-woo (Park Hae-jin), a man trained in special investigations and a mysterious man of many talents.
Blegvad’s band, comprising various Henry Cow alumni and sundry avant-gardists, provides flexible support for his musings, from the sinister cod-reggae shuffle of “Penny Black”, about a cursed stamp, to the more indefinable brew of languid, jazzy raunch-rock conjured to convey the enigmatic villain of “Had To Be Bad”.
Elsewhere, there’s an aptly Kevin Ayers-y air to the Provençal tableau “Cote D’Azur”, while “God Detector” adopts a suitably Dylanesque tone for the tale of a man with a machine he claims can trace divinity – for which, of course, he searches in vain amongst humanity.
Produced by Sturgill Simpson and David Ferguson, the arrangements offer a feisty take on bluegrass mountain music which sets off Childers’ perkily engaging delivery splendidly.