Serving as the lead guitarist and primary songwriter for San Francisco’s fabled Swingin’ Utters has undoubtedly informed Darius Koski’s role as a musician and writer over the last three decades, so the idea of his eventual solo career has appeared inevitable yet appropriate for quite some time.
In 2015, he released his debut album Sisu (Fat Wreck Chords), a 15 track opus of spirited, roots based material and two years on has managed to do the same, with equal precision. While the term ‘Americana’ is often overused to describe any kind of music performed with acoustic instruments, it fits Koski’s style very well, much more so in fact than many others categorized under the label.
On What Was Once Is By And Gone, one can hear how deeply the musical landscape of America has inspired his solo output, with bits of folk, country, rockabilly, and even gospel shining throughout. The energy of his punk inclinations remain thoroughly ingrained in much of the full band material, providing a refreshing take on the more rollicking, early Johnny Cash inspired songs. The albums’ best and most revealing work, however, is two hauntingly cinematic instrumentals – “Soap Opera” and “A Version” – which almost seem out of place when stacked against the others but serve as incredible takeaways regardless.
Follow-up albums are notoriously difficult, but Koski has forged a sympathetic style, engrossing the listener with a particular charm and authenticity that only 30 years in a hardscrabble punk band can inspire. Standout tracks include “Stay With Me”, “Stupid Sentimental”, “Soap Opera”, “A Version”, and “Another Man”.