Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

It may be instructive to know that Chris Isaak turned down a role in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet in favor of finishing work on his self-titled second album. It’s not hard to see a kinship between Lynch’s dark cinematic visions and Isaak’s own fascination with the tortured side of love. Isaak knows how to take vintage songwriting conventions and distill them into something personal — tunes like “You Owe Me Some Kind Of Love,” ”Lie To Me” and “Lovers Game” place his own stamp on the overripe heartache of late ‘50s/early ‘60s-style rock. There’s a California film noir feel to tracks like “Blue Hotel,” suggesting deep shadows this side of paradise. For the most part, the tunes here are broodingly midtempo, though “You Took My Heart” and “Wild Love” pick up some speed. Throughout, Chris’s sob-wracked voice recalls the grandiose angst of Roy Orbison without being slavishly imitative of it. He’s helped immensely by James Calvin Wilsey’s rockabilly-meets-Ventures guitar work and Kenney Dale Johnson’s forceful drumming. It all combines to make Chris Isaak a haunted — and haunting — work.

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