Let it Rain

Some of you may be aware that a guy named David Duchovny put out an album last month. His name might sound familiar to you, he’s done a little acting in shows like The X-Files and Californication, as well as this little new thing called Aquarius

Maybe he looks a little familiar?
Maybe he looks a little familiar?

Ok, I can’t do the tongue-in-cheek thing anymore, we all know who Duchovny is. ANYWAY, he just put out an album. My initial thought was probably the same thing you’re thinking, if this is the first you’re hearing of it — “Oh, God, another actor trying to be a musician…” But since I’ve just recently started watching The X-Files, and shut up, I know I’m two decades late, but to be fair I was just being born when it started, I figured why not check it out. Worst that could happen was I would hate it and turn it off, right?

Thank God that didn’t happen.

Much to my surprise, I actually really love this album. See, the thing is, he’s not putting himself out there like he’s the best there is. In any interviews he’s done, he’s very modest about the whole thing. He knows his limits; and he wasn’t even setting out to make an album. He’s on the cover of Guitar Aficionado Vol. 7, No. 4, which is the current July/August issue.  Before you think I’m some kind of guitar snob, I’d never even heard of this magazine, but happened to see it at my Guitar Center and grabbed it because I like the album and wanted to read the cover story. Also there are some really nice guitars in it, but I’ll never own them without winning the lottery or selling a kidney.

The guitar magazine that made me consider blackmarket organ selling.
The guitar magazine that made me consider selling organs on the black market.

Anyway, he spoke with the interviewer about how he came to make the album, and he was very aware that the reaction was going to be the aforementioned “Oh look, an actor who thinks he can do music.” But as I said, he didn’t start out doing it to make an album. He started because when he and his wife separated in 2011, he found himself with a deal more free time than he was used to. So, as he says “I’d always wanted to play guitar, so I just said ‘Fuck it, go get one.'” It’s an age old tale of boy-meets-musical-interest.

Except, you know, he’s a famous actor, so he could afford to go buy a really nice expensive guitar, which is exactly what he did. Although his motivation for doing so wasn’t simply that he could afford to — “I told myself I had to buy something expensive because that way I’d feel like shit if I didn’t play it regularly.” Which is a pretty great philosophy, actually. I feel like shit if I don’t play my drums, and I didn’t even pay for them. So, can’t fault him for that.

Ok, look, I know talking about blowing a lot of money on a guitar just because he wanted to play doesn’t sound very humble. But here’s the thing. He actually taught himself, at least to start. He learned at home with books and the internet. Later he started playing with friends. But he didn’t have any formal lessons until he asked for his characters to be written playing guitar. And then he got some free lessons from the TV studios because you have to be able to do it right if you’re doing it on television. So if you want to learn to play an instrument, become an actor and have your characters be written playing that instrument.

This was still all a pastime for him, however. He’s said in more than one interview that music had always been very important to him but he didn’t have an musical aspirations. This whole album thing just sort of fell into his lap. He has a friend whose son is a singer/songwriter, Keaton Simons,  and contacted him for help when he started to create his own songs. And when Simons brought Duchovny on stage at a performance, he happened to be seen by Brad Davidson from Boston’s ThinkSay label. According to Duchovny, “Brad asked me, ‘Do you have any interest in recording?’ I was like, “No. But why not?'” And so Duchovny cut an album.

Also it sounds like he might be interested in doing more albums, which makes me a very happy fan.

Cover of the album
Cover of the album

But enough about the process. As far as the actual album goes, it’s pretty divisive, which I can understand. Vocally, Duchovny sounds pretty Bob Dylan-esque, though possibly even less traditionally talented (there’s not really a way to say this that doesn’t sound rude, but I don’t mean to). In simple, crude layman’s terms, he can’t really sing that well. To his credit, he doesn’t claim to be able to. The whole project was for his personal enjoyment. And I think that’s part of why I like it so much; it just feels so genuine. Like Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Duchovny’s lyrics are more important and more of the focus than his vocals (though I do actually like his voice, and I like Springsteen’s as well. As for Dylan, I’ll agree that he very rarely exhibits vocal talent). Musically, the album is solid, though less of that is Duchovny’s playing than it is his backing band. I’d be interested in hearing a stripped down version, just him and his guitar. His chord progression on “Let It Rain” is easily one of my favorites in music in general, and I was pretty happy that it turned out to be one of the two tracks from the album that was posted on Ultimate Guitar (the other being “Unsaid Undone,” which is good but I would have preferred “Hell or Highwater,” or “The Rain Song.” Actually I just want the whole album posted…).

What’s great is that there’s not really a bad track on the album, which isn’t always the case. It’s consistently enjoyable from start to finish and ends on a strong note with the 7 minute rocker “Positively Madison Avenue,” a tribute to Dylan and according to Duchovny was inspired by Dylan’s Chrysler Superbowl ad. I’ve put the lyrics below, because they’re pretty great.

Joker man takes off his mask
Reveals a car salesman and at last says
“Grow up, son, you know it’s just a masquerade, now
Be a good boy and get me and the boss a gatorade”
You can work up quite a thirst
Watching all ’em bubbles burst
I was following Ghandi on the twitter
He tweeted “Son, I don’t like to see you bitter”
But if you wanna get in this kind of shape
Well, it’s abstinence and a protein shake
Or you could lose your appetite
Watching wrong pass for right
Yeah, you could lose your appetite
Watching wrong pass for right

Save me a place at the bar
Bobby Dylan who was selling cars
All hail with stripes and with stars
Bobby Dylan who was selling cars

Voyeurs, critics, bloggers, vultures
Pick their percentage off the carcass of the culture
And what we fiddle as corporations
Pull out to other nations, give Mother Earth a facial
All men are created equal, more or less
Free to negotiate a sequel, God bless!
Don’t call me a hypocrite, naive
You can take this good as given, still believe
Mo-Town slam pictures of Lucky 7
While a beleaguered Pete Seeger has to hitch his way to heaven
I have learned the victor’s secrets
You show panties and still remain a Jesus

Save me a place at the bar
Bobby Dylan who was selling cars
All hail with stripes and with stars
Bobby Dylan who was selling cars

I don’t wanna complain
But this old world seems strange
The writing on the wall, I think
Was written to disappearing ink

I’m sure your morals are beyond reproach
But it’s not like I’m asking you to fly coach
I know it’s uncool not to be ironic
And I know that you’re bulletproof iconic
I really shouldn’t be throwing stones – no
Cause chasing spooks on Fox I made my bones
We’re all guilty of sin
After we’ve forced someone to keep from getting in
And those who used to hustle hope
Fashion nooses now out of a velvet rope
But I guess there’s nothing much to do
Cause only you can write the song to get to you
I guess there’s nothing much to do
Cause only you can write the song to get to you

Save me a place at the bar
Bobby Dylan who was selling cars
Well, I guess I should be goin’
Aw, shit, is that Leonard Cohen?

TAKE IT PAT – Guitar Solo…

What it comes down to is this: If you like Dylan or similar artists, you’ll probably like Hell or Highwater. It’s raw, genuine, and just a lot of fun over all. If you don’t like Dylan, or aren’t very familiar with him, I’d still say you should at least give the album a shot. Or at least check out “Let it Rain” below, which I’d argue is the best track on the album, or “Positively Madison Avenue,” which is just really clever and a lot of fun. Ultimately I think Duchovny’s got something special here, and I definitely hope he continues with his new musical career. I know I’ll be following it closely.

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