Alec Ounsworth went down to New Orleans to record a solo album, recruited a handful of Big Easy musicians – including bassist George Porter Jr., drummer Stanton Moore, and keyboardist Robert Walter – and avoided being overwhelmed by the funky influences that pervade the region, a feat as impressive as strolling Bourbon Street without having a single drink.
Frontman for indie darlings Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Ounsworth’s Mo Beauty embraces a cohesive brand of punchy, vivid storytelling set to indelible instrumentation. The quiver in his vocals remains distinct, but the instrumentation is like CYHSY on steroids: full, quirky and grounded in keen musicianship. The collective dances across the brambles of “Bones in the Grave,” the guitar, percussion and B3 twisted like briars beneath Ounsworth’s poignant lyricism. Astute virtuosity emerges in the background of “Idiots in the Rain,” primarily in the piano-work of Walter, although all of the players here seem to have their moments to shine. But it is the sum of the whole that truly glows on the plodding “Me and You, Watson” and the heaving anthem “That Is Not My Home (After Bruegal).”
OK, so Ounsworth does revel in the New Orleans steam on “Holy, Holy, Holy Moses (Song for New Orleans),” but Mo Beauty isn’t a love letter for the Crescent City. One spin of the endearing “When You’ve No Eyes,” and it becomes clear that Ounsworth is his own man with his own sound, one that is in full bloom.
Mo Beauty is out now on Anti- Records.