There are some artists whose talents are unquestionable. They are the one’s who seem to be tapped into something higher. The one’s who will die trying. The one’s who seem to know something the rest of us don’t – even if they can’t explain it themselves. Justin Turberville is one such artist.
A prolific songwriter who claims to have written over 1,000 songs (and can remember them all), Turberville has been the driving force behind a number of Alabama-based groups. Still, his new album, Underneath The Shroud, might as well be his debut. Occasionally cryptic, often painfully direct, and always mellifluous, Underneath The Shroud is a meticulously crafted yet (seemingly) insouciantly-executed masterpiece with eleven songs that lay bare a soul looking to get lost as much as it needs to be found.
Armed with a baritone guitar – tuned down to A-sharp in order to let his voice reach its desired heights -- Underneath The Shroud was written and performed almost exclusively by Turberville (drums, bass, keys, etc.). Multi-instrumentalist Christian Folmar handled the more ornate keyboard arrangements. The only song to feature a band is “Papertrail” – and it was cut live with Folmar tackling the drums and Joseph Coty on bass.
Musically, Underneath The Shroud recalls the heartbreakingly melodic gifts of Elliot Smith as well as the fractured pop stylings of another alarmingly prolific songwriter, Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard -- with whom he shares an affinity for interesting song titles (i.e. “Jazz Talons” and “Phantom of the Fuck”) and songs that quickly make their point and move on. Mostly, Underneath The Shroud is all about stretching out -- and those songs belie a deep love for Sunny Day Real Estate, latter-day Fugazi, and (at the very least) a soft spot for jazz. But ask Turberville who his favorite band is and you’ll get a quick answer: “Metallica.”
Underneath The Shroud also stretches out lyrically as well. Not in the “weird poetry” sense, mind you, but in the way Turberville unflinchingly confronts his targets, himself included. “This Could Be Your Autumn” is about an itinerant mother. “Throw Me Under The Bus” and “Lampreys” both attack the naysayers in his personal and musical life. “You Ain’t The Sun” is for an ex. “We’re All Gonna Die” is, in Justin’s words, “Pretty self-explanatory.“ “Lifting The Shroud” the album’s ostensible title track, seems aimed squarely at its author… But it’s hard to tell. And, ironically, that might be the point.
At its core, Underneath The Shroud, is about Turberville performing a very delicate balancing act: To create a work of art that’s extremely personal, but distant enough that any listener could imagine themselves in his shoes… But honesty is paramount.
“I want people to hear something real. Something pure -- from the heart with zero bullshit attached,” says Turberville. “There's no holding back. There's no playing nice when you're doing something pure -- you just do it.”
And indeed he does. Underneath The Shroud is a staggering work that demands to be heard… And you can be sure that there’s more where this came from.
Underneath The Shroud’s stark and gorgeous production was created by Lester Nuby at Ol Elegante in Birmingham, Alabama. Mastering services came courtesy of Jason Hamric (also of Ol Elegante). Birmingham artist / musician Paul C. Wilm created the cover.
Underneath The Shroud is a digital-only release and, subsequently, is available from iTunes, Amazon, E-Music and all other reputable purveyors of digital music... And probably the not-so-reputable ones, too.