On his second solo record, Dan Tuffy wastes no time in experimenting with ambiance and sound. The veteran musician and storyteller — known, in part, for his role in legendary 80s and 90s Melbourne psychedelic folk group Wild Pumpkins at Midnight — brings stripped down, sometimes gritty tracks to this collection.
Both the first and last songs on Letters of Gold begin with a count-in, a nod to a candid production style, an inside glimpse of the process. These counts also draw attention to the interesting rhythms that permeate the record. “Can’t Contain my Feeling” catches on strums and resonant plucking notes that create a mysterious sense. “Big Man,” for its part, closes down with a darkness spiced with held notes.
Letters of Gold holds onto a sense of groove, which pops up here and there to shake your expectations. “Honey Flow” and “Sandy Track” even find hooks within melody. “Home Fires” — after some instrumental experimentation — even settles into something like danceable.
But the heart here is Tuffy’s knack for telling a story. “Eternity” might lean towards the didactic, but the tropes he pulls from are rich with a history that he handles respectfully. “No Sleep Until the Work is Done” is rugged and allows the electric guitar to resonate around images of raw materials and hard work.
Letters of Gold pulls from a history of country and folk music to create something that is both electric and earthy. Careful now, this one might just catch alight.