Athens, Georgia songwriter extraordinaire Vic Chesnutt is back with a new barrage of ditties so catchy you'll forget they're about stomped hearts. For a decade plus, Chesnutt has toured with folks such as Wilco and Victoria Williams and has even been the subject of a critically acclaimed documentary, Speed Racer. As an album title, Left to His Own Devices offers both a literal and a metaphorical description of the works found herein. On this collection of demos and rarities, just about all of the vocal and instrumental performances were provided by Chesnutt. He plays straight to a four-track and tweaks the tunes with ProTools. But that's not the most interesting part. For the good stuff, look at the less literal interpretation of the title.
Without interference or distraction, Chesnutt is apt to give rise to some potent stuff. A mixture of raw and polished pieces, these tracks sample the gamut covered by this Georgian. In "Squeak", Chesnutt braves it alone with his guitar. As with some of his earlier recordings, he crams an inordinate number of words into a phrase, yet he manages to make it work. Filled with odd imagery and defiance, the song disparages Chesnutt himself, reducing everything he does on stage to nothing more than a squeak.
"Very Friendly Lighthouses", in contrast, is polished and nuanced with delicious harmonies, lilting guitar and plinky organ. More slick than much of his other fare, this cut suggests Cat Stevens more than typical Chesnutt. But man, is this tasty stuff. Chesnutt's penchant for turning a line and pairing up the strangest images cuts through here. Though he's blessed with a knack for crafting catchy melodies and sweet arrangements, it's Chesnutt's writing that distinguishes him and makes each album so savory. It's a slow release, but the more you suck on it, the sweeter it gets.