Review: Temperamental, Don Cavalli

If the brief, rapid-fire songs on Don Cavalli’s sophomore solo release Temperamental gives the impression that the singer has one foot out the door, that’s because it’s probably true. The French songwriter/guitarist proclaims he rejects the life of a “full-time musician”, instead choosing to bide his time and let his songcraft improve with age like the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir of his motherland. Consequently, five years (a near-eternity in music years) have passed since Cavalli’s debut full-length Cryland, a psychedelic-blues affair championed by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and MOJO Magazine. In between the two projects, Cavalli has worked various odd jobs (including as an undertaker, so it’s safe to say he’s had one foot in the grave as well), and mostly eschewed touring in support of the album’s success.

But we mustn’t be so hasty to question Cavalli’s dedication to music. After all, the man spent time in several rockabilly groups since the 80’s, persisting in relative obscurity with the Blue Cats and the Two Timers before his 2008 breakthrough release. Temperamental may have been long in the making for what sounds like it may have been written and recorded in a matter of days, but closer listening reveals sage intricacies of instrumentation in tracks like the hustling “Me And My Baby” and the hip-hop sitar-centric “Feel Not Welcome”. “Row My Boat” could have been a silly folk throw-off, but the drums and electric guitar backing give the track a funky backbone. The interplay between the clinking piano notes and warm guitar fuzz on “Garden of Love” are among the most tonally satisfying elements of the album’s retro vibe.

Banjo, mandolin, wah-wah guitar, and organ (just to name a few) accompany Cavalli’s lothario vocals and lyrics on songs that amalgamate the aforementioned folk and hip-hop along with blues, 60s psychedelia, funk, and Americana: astonishingly, the record covers all these bases in just over 35 minutes. The twelve short yet dense songs on Temperamental succeed undoubtedly due to Cavalli’s reluctance to rush his art and risk cluster, or worse, repeating himself.