With patterns and tones emanating mainly from the strum of an acoustic guitar, Darius Degher creates a 12-song ride-along travel log of American landscapes, characters, and tales on Coyote Cantos.
A “canto,” meaning “song” or “singing” in Italian, is one of the sections into which long poems are divided. And Degher’s baker’s dozen leans heavily on the narrative during these cantos, with word-rich chronicles vibrant in color. His poetry is expansive and well spun, executed in a way that makes it easy to get inside of. The songs speak of Gas Station ladies, a kid named Boring Bob, Rosie the Engineer, and enough talk about UFOs and conspiracies to alert Coast to Coast AM.
Degher moves in and out of a Tom Petty-ish nasal vocal delivery to maneuver along the stories embedded in the lyrics. At times Degher can sound like James McMurtry, with a more monotone delivery, or like Mike Scott from the Waterboys when reaching for the highs. Bottom line, whatever tone or inflection he is using, it’s the word and arrangements that set this disc apart.
Varying from the typical acoustic folk/rock/blues thing, though that is the mainstay of this record, Degher elevates his game with a handful of unique arrangements–be it the mood shifts on “Cadillac Waltz” (featuring Darius’s daughter, Cleopatra, contributing some beautifully placed vocals), the different gears “Rosie The Engineer” uses to expand its narrative, the sweeping chorus used to elevate the “Leucadia Love Song” lullaby, or the punch of the rockin’-est tune on the record “I Been There.”
It’s easy to see why Coyote Cantos was nominated for best local recording at this year’s San Diego Music Awards. The CD has a warm tone that gives Degher’s poetry a chance to breathe underneath the cadence of the band. And if you just let it play a few times over while going through your day, the songs broaden, and the layers of these cantos shine.