A collection of twelve tracks, BEAUTIFUL DOOR, is a lyrical, sonic story about life and death, beginnings and ends. A blend of roots rock, country, and folk, the musical genres Billy Bob Thornton has always loved most, BEAUTIFUL DOOR is the follow up album to his third solo release in 2005, HOBO -- and like HOBO, BEAUTIFUL DOOR is a collection of songs Thornton intended to have listened to as an "album," in its entirety. "The album had to have a sequence. And even if it's not an A+B+C song type of story-- BEAUTIFUL DOOR is still a sonic landscape that both musically and lyrically flows from one track to the next."
Awright, den. Karl Childers's alter ego arrives on his fourth solo album mired in memories, awash in tears for too many lives and relationships that ended too soon. He's mournful for the war and the misguided politics that begat it, for a friend who suicided out, for a woman who broke his heart, and for a boy who died too soon. Unlike its predecessors, Beautiful Door
seems stuck in a time warp of the '60s and '70s, from which it draws much of its lyrical inspiration and musical framework (folk, country, and roots rock, all a showcase for cowriter Brad Davis's eloquent, punch-in-the-gut guitar playing). Billy Bob Thornton doesn't so much sing as speak over music, his gravelly Arkansas drawl occasionally sustaining pitch long enough to approximate a melody. But his forthright vocals here owe more to The Edge of the World
than to the whispery Private Radio
, though guest Graham Nash is so underground (on three cuts) you'd need a Geiger counter to find him. As his own producer, then, Thornton puts the focus squarely on the songs, which seem the private writings of a man who lives an intensely insular life, not an internationally known actor/director. Ghosts float across the ceiling throughout--the leadoff track, "It's Just Me," takes the point of view of the suicide who refuses to abandon the living, while the second song ("Restin' Your Soul") tells the same story from the companion left behind. Two other confessionals ("I Gotta Grow Up" and the winsome "Hearts Like Mine") may reference ex-wife Angelina Jolie. If the social commentary of "Pretty People" arrives DOA, Thornton turns drolly novelistic on the honky-tonking "Carnival Girl," an encounter with an unusually confident midway worker ("Her bottom lip and both ears were linked by chains/She even had a tattoo on her aura"). Consider Beautiful Door
another strange visit with an artist who isn't afraid to put himself on the line. --Alanna Nash