So, if you read my Grammy picks, you might now understand why they were one of my winner picks - which I was wrong about. They were robbed, damn it. This album is good (yeah, writing the intro in the middle of this listen - I have other things going on in my life people!) This is meant to be a pastoral/rural record, which it hits the mark for sure on. Instead of being influenced by British folk, as past albums were, this album was said to provide a look at our own American tradition, and really dig in to the roots of things.
Warning ahead of time: I get a little poetic - flowery even - in my descriptions. This music was just an incredible fit for an otherwise lonely and quiet night.
Check it out on Spotify - trust me, you won't be disappointed.
"Don't Carry It All" is the first track, and already cradling me into a very familiar place. I love this band, regardless of my lack of listening enough. They know how to keep a damn good beat going and just edge on that whiny vocal sound without crossing over into horrible territory. The song is a great message about not trying to carry the weight of everything on you constantly - a lesson more than a few of us could stand to take to heart.
"Rox In The Box"has this very country/folk sound, and I would feel safe betting money on the face that I've heard this somewhere before. Actually, I take that back - I did have a huge NPR kick for a while, and I think it was right around when this album as being released. The song itself is pretty introspective in a pretty, well, dark way. The fiddle carries it down, but almost adds some understanding to the whole matter. Plus, there's this fascinating Irish/Scottish essence that's just gorgeously lining the whole thing.
The next track, "January Hymn," is definitely that winter track. It's raw, like the chill in the air, but simple as the white snow. Guh, I'm very oddly poetic tonight. There's something in the melody here too, though, that ties that simplicity and rawness together in complete beauty. You just want to get lost in it as the track waves by on the chilly wind.
The Grammy nominated track is next: "Down By The Water."It includes Peter Buck on 12-string guitar and our old friend Gillian Welch with vocals. Anyone else here some REM influence going on? Not that I don't love it - it's pretty damn fantastic - the whole song I mean. There's a bitter roughness to it all, maybe just by the sharps being hit in those melodies. The Blues Travelers harmonic isn't ideal, but it doesn't hurt once you ignore your mental reference to where you've heard it before.
Just as the January one did, "June Hymn"has its own season's sound to it. It plays with the sunshine and lets it rise above the rest slowly and steadily and maybe even through love. Or maybe I'm hopeful. It sings of that gentle time where spring fades into summer, and before we know it the transition is done and we're surrounded. I'm sort of enjoying giving into the poetic sense of writing tonight that's normally reserved for instrumental albums - hope you are too!
"This Is Why We Fight"kind of blew me away at first, simply because of its non-simplicity. The whole band kicks in at first, and with this old West song. It moves so much more like a pop song than the rest of the others have, because there's more element involved. The lyrics are great - it's an explanation of why we care. "Why we lie awake at night. When we die, we die with our arms unbound." There's even a stop/start section to really emphasize the points. Ah, to see this live...
The final track is "Dear Avery." While this may be the quietest song overall, it's almost off my radar completely until the harmonies come in. So many of the songs have a 'stand up for what you want' sound/theme, that this is tough, but maybe it's about the fighter we know, instead of the one we are. It's a memory and a calling back to the home that he once had from the people who care. It's a nice gentle rock into the end of a beautifully constructed album.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Don't Carry It All"
- "Calamity Song"
- "Rise To Me"
- "Rox In The Box"
- "January Hymn"
- "Down By The Water"
- "All Arise!"
- "June Hymn"
- "This Is Why We Fight"