Clint Niosi’s The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders 

www.myspace.com/clintniosi 

By Ken Shimamoto 

First impression: Waitaminute, what’s this? Can it be…a concept album about rejection (a topic with which most musicians should be familiar)? Nah, that’d be too perfect. 

Clint Niosi’s a singer-songwriter who grew up in Minnesota and moved, kicking and screaming, with his family to Mansfield when he was 14. An agile fingerstyle guitarist whose vocalismo resides somewhere in the vicinity of Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, and the rustic side of Robert Plant, he hit the boards in 1999, playing any and everywhere from the Ridglea Theater lounge to the Black Dog to the Metrognome Collective, not to mention Denton, Dallas, Austin, etc.  

Niosi rolled out this arty, ambitious debut disc in a late-June extravaganza at the Rose Marine Theater, backed by a string section and musos from Tame…Tame and Quiet as well as album producer-arranger/Theater Fire multi-instrumental whiz James Talambas, fellow singer-songwriter Kristina Morland, and Top Secret…Shhh mastermind Marcus Lawyer (on bass). On the disc, Talambas decorates the songs with lush beds of keyboards, string and horn arrangements, vocal choruses and loads of interesting effects (like the hand percussion on the opening “My Mephistophilis”). Morland joins Niosi on “The Sum of Parts” for a vocal duet that hits like a depresso June ‘n’ Johnny. 

Lyrically, Niosi takes on The Big Topics (God, death, the emptiness of city life) in a way that’s often oblique and opaque (I’m not sure exactly what he’s on about in “Coal Mine Canary,” from whence the album’s title is drawn), but when he drops the thesaurus and speaks plainly, he can be effective. The aforementioned “My Mephistophilis” starts out as a Bert Jansch-via-Led Zep III folkie blues before the string section enters two thirds of the way in and transforms the song into a Danny Elfman-esque cartoon nightmare. “City Girl” works either as a meditation on urbanity or a love song, punctuated by Burt Bacharach-meets-The Theater Fire brass interjections. “Van Gogh Complex” rocks out in the manner of Death Cab For Cutie or one of those, reframing the classic tortured-artist story in a way that’s miles away from the way, um, Don McLean did. 

With the record done, Niosi’s taking it to stages all over North Central Texas, including the Fairmount (for their July 23rd Songwriter’s Showcase). You can cop the CD at Borders at I-30 and Hulen, as well as online at lala.com and emusic.com.

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