Soundkeeper Recordings 2022
With the spirit of prairie on their collective sleeve, restless seekers of rootsy paradise get sequestered in a barn to unplug and get away with it.
Lately, this band have been on a roll, laying down pieces penned in different genres – bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm-and-blues, which form separate song cycles arrayed for release in the near future – and playing around on their own and with Terry Reid who’s also ready issue an album of the quintet-composed numbers, yet “The Twain Shall Meet” had to get out of the ensemble’s system first, for it’s the closest to their country heart. Recorded in a 200-year-old barn in the hills of Connecticut, the platter is as stylistically refined and nuanced as it is deceptively rustic, almost homespun, in terms of delivery and emotions that are, in fact, rather sophisticated and always sincere, with a twist thrown in here and there to keep the listener riveted to the proceedings – and often beaming because not everything on offer turns out to be what it seems.
Take, for instance, “Waylon” which, instead of paying tribute to a certain outlaw, unfolds into a tender ode to an old dog, a similar, if more defiant, pining for the past set in from the off, once “New Half Step” locates sadness in the hootenanny sonics where the filigree of dobro is woven into guitars’ strum before voice and violin begin their sweet swirl on the sawdust-covered dancefloor to the groove that’s delicately dictated by George Kapitanelis’s bass. With Scott Lauro adopting a drawl and Nick Reeb’s fiddle panning across the Appalachian landscape, the group marry Northern and Southern idioms, the titular twain, in “Yankee” whose vocal harmonies are heavenly and an acoustic six-string solo celestial, while the dry “Whispers On The Wind” evokes the spicy smell of valleys.
However, the barely-there instrumentation of “Oh No” distils it to diaphanous despondency – contrasted with impassioned singing – and “Woods And Water” slows the flow for “whiskey weed” to go down with a tuneful anguish, “chasin’ demons for a song” in warbler and writer Danny Pavas’ own words. And though the ensemble try and keep their vibe as pure as possible, a blues link will be revealed when banjo licks flood “Pine Song” to morph despair into merry memories, the destination of “Speeding Train” which closes this magnificent album at breakneck speed. Such variety of moods is the key to the record’s relatability and accessibility, so one doesn’t have to play cowboy to feel the “Twain” appeal.