Tall and thin, as pale as a sheet of A4, Robert Chaney is not the kind of person you imagine hailing from sunny South Florida. But Florida is a place of contradictions. It is a land of technicolour sunsets and torrential storms. Of glittering skyscrapers and sun-rotted bungalows. Of Disney World and designer drugs. And so perhaps it is really no surprise that Chaney can come from a place like Florida and make his kind of music - bitter, skeletal ballads played on rickety guitars and buzzing amplifiers. They are songs woven from tabloid headlines, crimes, and love affairs. Stretched within their warp are threads of the dusty shellac blues of the 20s and 30s, the hyper-violent pulp noir of the 40s, the cable-knit folk revival of the 50s, and the French celluloid new wave of the 60s.
The Dylan comparisons are inevitable, though they miss the point. Chaney projects his songs through a dusty existential lens aimed at the American South, taking inspiration from such varied influences as film directors Truffaut, Godard and Melville as well as authors Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor. The topics of the songs themselves hang heavy. Patch It Up slyly conjures a Florida hurricane as a metaphor for a faltering relationship, its middle section replete with a density of rhyme that recalls more Public Enemy than Prine. Another standout is The Cyclist, which spins a tale fit for crisp B&W 16mm, featuring a cheating spouse, a tragic roadside death, a starkly-lit police interrogation room, and a courtroom twist at the end that often causes audible gasps at live gigs. With his guitar as the barest of accompaniments, Chaney propels the listener through time, space, and story with a dexterity that truly sets him apart from worthy contemporaries.