July 9th, 2014 | Album reviews

Johnnie Cluney

Christian Lee Hutson
The Hurt And The Natural Charm
Daytrotter Sessions

For nearly a decade, Horseshack Studio and its related website Daytrotter have been vying to be the Peel Sessions of Illinois. Making new, one-of-a-kind recordings of existing songs by every artist who comes by, they take their recording methods to the extreme of austerity, bested only by NPR’s Tiny Desk Series for minimalism and lack of pretense. Hutson, no stranger to playing without pretense (he was in the Driftwood Singers, by gum!) nails it here with a couple songs from his album Yeah Okay I Know, which he’s been slowly revealing song by song on bandcamp, etc., each month for the duration of 2014. Fans of Hutson will recognize that a few songs here are sneak previews of yet-to-be-released ditties from that album–my favorite is “Dirty Little Cheat,” a song so fragile and haunting, it could be from the Bert Jansch or Roy Harper catalog. Hutson somehow makes the cheater not to be evil, but a doomed sinner, one to be pitied for her (his?) inability to love. Even the song’s structure gets lonely. The guitar picking eventually reduces itself to just idle, almost inaudible strumming, before Hutson comes back strong with the kind of woe that sounds almost indistinguishable from tired frustration. A man who tours as much as Hutson does probably knows a lot about both.

-D. M. Collins