After the breakup of Best Kissers In The World, the Seattle power-pop band he fronted until 1995, Gerald Collier reinvented himself, releasing two acclaimed solo albums. His self-titled disc on Revolution last year was full of dark, confessional tales from one who appears unlikely to give up on his uneasy relationships with women, bandmates or record companies.
But his relationship with Revolution ended abruptly about two weeks after he signed on. Collier took that as a chance to write songs more rooted in classic country, a direction he’d flirted with on his previous albums. The result is Low Tar Taste, a five-song EP available only from his website. Collier takes the wisps of country that drifted almost ineffably through his last album and turns them into glorious thunderheads of honky-tonk. It’s obvious from the EP’s opener, “Understatement Of The Year” (a tune he kicks off by belting a cappella, “Gettin’ high, and fallin’ down”), to the closing track, “A Tale To Tell”, that country suits Collier well. It also suits his new band: guitarist Martin Chandler, a gifted acoustic soloist; bassist Clay Bartlett, who also provides touches of banjo and mandolin; and agile pedal steel player Alan Terhune. The exception is drummer Eric Fenner, who tends to play too rock-heavy.
Low Tar Taste is a mixture of shuffles and ballads; the most affecting tune is of the latter variety. The bittersweet “Long Distance”, with Collier’s voice painfully confiding, “She’s missin’ this morning/But she ain’t missin’ me” as Terhune’s slide reinforces the weepy mood, is so irreparably sad that a live rendition can hush a rowdy bar crowd. That’s pure country at its most affecting.