Ever since catching an intimate Bonnie “Prince” Billy chapel show in 2010, I’ve kept my ears open for more work from his talented bandmates. In particular, the Cairo Gang — aka Emmett Kelly’s solo outfit — and Angel Olsen have been on the radar, with the latter releasing an excellent Kelly-featuring LP only a few weeks back. Now comes the Cairo Gang’s new album, The Corner Man, and suffice to say (given that we’re picking up a track), it was well worth the wait. Few might be aware that Kelly is one of the best performers of nuanced guitar work around and fewer have given due credit to his harmonies on Oldham recordings, but this record should help bring both qualities to the fore. Turns out the guy can sing and write in the lead role, too, offering up 8 varied tracks here of plaintive yet heartening appeal.
Guests include Wilco’s Leroy Bach on guitar, Ben Boye on keys, Sam Wagster on pedal steel, David Vandervelde co-mixing, and Paul Oldham mastering. Aside from the studio help, none of the above are listed for opening track “Everybody Knows,” but it cuts the deepest to these ears (“Put on a Smile,” “There Is Something Here,” and “Now You Are One of Us” prove the broader range of Kelly’s arranging and performing skills). Hear the sparse tune — and be sure to stick around for its glorious refrain in the outro — above. The Corner Man is available on vinyl here via Empty Cellar Records.