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Coffee Mate: “Des Moines” by Jeffrey Foucault

With his Stetson hat, denim jacket, and salt-and-pepper beard, Jeffrey Foucault looks how he sounds: baritone, a little gravelly, owner of a booming thoughtfulness, all of which he blows through a bluesy, no-frills rig fit for a highwayman.

And he puts that to work on “Des Moines.”

From 2015’s Salt As Wolves, “Des Moines” is a song fit for ill-lit Midwestern roads, the Great Plains’ never ending horizon, for “I-80 at midnight, [when] there was nothing to say.” Both sparse and bold, “Des Moines” is a masterclass in Foucault’s control as a singer-songwriter, using gritty vignettes and grounded poetry to capture the noir-romance of the musician in transit, and the reflexive pursuit of one’s craft, however lonely.

“We sent our smoke up through streetlights/We sent our prayers out through an old P.A,” Foucault sings, deep, but fading into elusiveness. “And we watched the housing filling up with no one/But God was listening, and he cupped his ears.”

Foucuault’s imagery is tangibly precise throughout, achingly detailed,  and delivered earnestly. Both sonically and lyrically, there’s perhaps nowhere finer example than the subtle build to the song’s bridge: “And the heat from the asphalt, it was liquid and dancing/ and we to the front door, like a rock’n’roll band.”

Foucault is a seasoned Americana-veteran, and on Salt As Wolves—a true country blues record—he commits to the song as the vessel, using a tonal guitar to color in the record’s surroundings, rather than lead melodically. It’s potent, both heavy-riffed and restrained, with Foucault often backed only by right-hand-man Billy Conway on the drums, the combined technicality of the two giving Salt As Wolves a pound-for-pound sound that is unrivaled, and massively rich.

On both “Des Moines” and the record as a whole, there’s an inherent smokiness, but also a genuine tenderness that Foucault effortlessly wields. The album’s opening track, “Des Moines” is the promise that fuses the two together, and demands listeners play Salt As Wolves through, uninterrupted.

“Des Moines” wins that type of favor through sheer, instant, obvious quality—if not perfection.

More from Jeffrey Foucault at http://www.jeffreyfoucault.com/.

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