Personnel: Tom Morello (vocals, guitar); Serj Tankian, Shooter Jennings (vocals); Brendan O'Brien (various instruments); Daniel Laufer (cello).
Recording information: Bud's Garage, Atlanta, GA.
Photographer: Sean Ricigliano.
Guitar virtuoso Tom Morello made his reputation in high-volume bands like incendiary rap-rockers Rage Against the Machine and stadium-filling supergroup Audioslave, but his ongoing Nightwatchman project works on a much smaller scale. In place of Rage's weeping politics, the subject matter on THE FABLED CITY deals with everyday struggles and the politics of putting one foot in front of the other. The music fits the tales, as Morello largely eschews the sci-fi electric guitar heroics he's known for, and instead pours his inventive technique into stark, mostly acoustic folk compositions. That's not to say Morello doesn't find room for different sounds and textures; "Whatever It Takes" buzzes with fuzzy funk and small breaks of rapidly strummed, high-pitched guitars, and "Facing Mount Kenya" incorporates subtle African influences.
Former Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitar virtuoso Tom Morello is generally known for his inventive metal and funk-derived fretboard pyrotechnics and his radical leftist politics, and as a solo artist, he's found new ways of tackling both in a fresh context. Morello's albums as the Nightwatchman put his politics back into the world of acoustic protest folk music, giving him a chance to till new guitar soil while telling stories in a plainspoken, deep drawl. Instead of the strident arena rock of Morello's past, the Nightwatchman persona gravitates more to Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and other chroniclers of common American lives.
Rolling Stone (p.80) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Morello augments his acoustic guitar with stirring arrangements on piano, mandolin, cello and drums....With a solid band behind him, he seems much more confident in his new role as a modern protest troubadour."
Entertainment Weekly (p.77) - "[The] guitarist's remarkable transformation from purveyor of weapons-grade funk-metal riffs into introspective protest folkie yields even more impressive fruit on his second solo effort." -- Grade: A-
Alternative Press (p.153) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Morello has made a conscious effort to plug in this time around, and the title track and 'Whatever It Takes' benefits as a result."
Kerrang (Magazine) (p.52) - "There's a Nick Cave-esque darkness that colours songs like 'The Lights Are On In Spidertown' or 'Night Falls'..."