At just 24, Oregon-born Weaver is some piece of work: a stony wisdom gleaned from years of touring every Stateside fleapit imaginable, seasoned by road trips with Alejandro Escovedo, Greg Brown and the late Dave Van Ronk. In particular, the Brown connection has proved catalytic. The lugubrious lowan sang on Weaver’s debut, El Camino Blues, while Brown stalwarts Bo Ramsey (guitar) and Dave Moore (electric harp/accordion) fleshed out Living In The Ground (2003), recorded in one five-hour spurt.
Living…illustrates Weaver’s fascination with the darker corners of people’s lives, peppered with itinerant drifters caught in rainstorms and jailbirds on the lam. Against a frantic backdrop, his bleached-bone delivery conjures nightmare visions of Tom Waits’ psychotic half-brother gunning a jalopy to hell. Townes Van Zandt’s “2 Girls” is a highlight.
By contrast, the less self-conscious Hollerin’…(2002) allows Weaver the freedom to draw out each narrative and explore different textures. Folksy and naked, “Blood” is typical: voice like pebbles sloshing in a bucket; strangled harmonica; fiddle and squeezebox; boot-heel beat on an empty juke-joint floor. “Woodpecker Song” finds him stuck in a ditch, scrambling his own vocal with manic anti-harmonies. Besides the wonderfully rhythmic storytelling, what’s special is his mood-setting ingenuity. Impotent childhood fantasy “Those Semis Sounded Like Thunder” is soundtracked by what sounds like an angry lawnmower; “Horse Hair And Hay” by a creepy rocking chair beat. Like Merle Haggard shooting tequila with Johnny Dowd. Pungent stuff.