Some stories are best told by one man-one guitar. And "Velvet Handcuffs" is a fully fledged beast proving Reynolds is one of the best at it.
He pushes his guitars into a full-on powerful acoustic mix linked with his trademark Hillbilly Noir tales of sadness and alienation. The music is stark, deliberate and unadorned. Reynolds is, in himself, his own category of music.
Recorded in cheap hotels from Nashville, Indiana to Nashville, Tennessee, and other obscure small town weigh-in stations of residence, it is nothing short of remarkable what he’s been able to do, both artistically and technically, with a standalone 8-track recorder in the darkness of his own head in the wee hours of the morning. Reynolds is fearless in dredging up those demons and ghosts that apparently continue to haunt him today.
Lyrically, he is at his best when eulogizing failed relationships, loneliness, dreams passed by and the failure to act. Whom we loved, who failed us, and what it all means in the face of our own inevitable demise. But his vision is not apocalyptic: It’s the process of learning to accept our regrets and disappointments while moving forward. Reynolds’ love of those Appalachian murder ballads and tales of lost love -- those gut-wrenching, gruesome, Celtic-born parables designed to steer sinners from indulging in their darker whims -- have left Reynolds to proclaim that death of the flesh or broken hearts do not necessarily come with a lesson ... sometimes it just comes. And yes love is, well, sometimes two-faced and selfish, and can go bad … real bad, real fast by uttering a single misplaced word at just the right moment. And that tortured sound of frustration echoes over and over in his music. But this volatility can yield tremendous rewards for the listener.
Reynolds' writing is unusually brutal and honest in “Velvet Handcuffs.” At times, harrowing. Most singer/songwriters paint lyrical landscapes with a familiar brush. Not Reynolds. He's created an archetypal genre pounding out stories with a big hammer and nails like a construction worker holding a set of blueprints. His guitar style is clean and bold, especially when doing single-string flat-picking rather than strumming chords. And he uses odd tunings to achieve a uniquely low, warm tube amp tone that effectively compliments his baritone voice.
Reynolds has been silent for 3 years. This 12th record since 2005 has been a remarkable journey of growth in his songwriting. He sounds more sophisticated and poignant than in his past work. But then, Reynolds has never attempted to live up to the times but, rather, just content with capturing the moment of memories.