Guitarist Mick Turner is one-third of the Australian instrumental combo The Dirty Three, and he’s also been an accompanist for Cat Power and Nick Cave. Unlike many guitarists, Turner does not use his parallel solo career to “spotlight” his solo prowess — if anything, Don’t Tell the Driver (his fourth solo album, and first in about six years) highlights Turner the composer in a cycle of vocal and instrumental pieces of uneasy listening.
“Long Way Home” features Turner’s pensive, jazz-tinged, crystalline guitar over a chorus of yearning brass and shifting, clattering drums that seem to echo the Ghost of Christmas Past’s chains. The title track continues the disorienting ambience with haunting melodica, distant tinkling piano, and the parched, forlorn vocals of Caroline Kennedy-McCracken, while Turner’s spare melody on his six-string shimmers like an approaching/encroaching sundown. The virtually orchestral “The Navigator” undulates in an understated manner while growing somewhat menacing, as if a group of travelers is nearing a fateful juncture. “Over Waves” features the regimented yet oddly soothing voice of Melbourne opera singer Oliver Mann in a surreal setting of ominous drums, a gently loping folk-like motif from Turner, stately, hopeful piano chords, and a soothing chorus from Kennedy-McCracken. “We’re Not Going Home” has a martial cadence and alludes ever so slightly to the melody of The Beatles’ “Two of Us” (whose refrain is, ironically, we’re going home).
While primarily instrumental, Don’t Tell the Driver evokes the harrowing songs of Leonard Cohen and the prose of Samuel Beckett with its depictions of ache, loss, and restless, perhaps endless, quests. (Drag City)