The Low Anthem “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin”

 

 

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#552 in the Series) is The Low Anthem, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Nonesuch (US), Bella Union(UK))

For this , their 3rd album (but first to be widely available), The Low Anthem really surpassed themselves, conjuring up a magical album, full of ghostly otherworldly ambience, with the odd wonderfully raucous detour thrown in for good measure!

The sleeve states that it was “recorded in the solace of a Block Island winter” and that’s entirely fitting, there’s a distinct chilly, spectral feel to the full thing.

I suppose it’s a folk album really, just not the kind you’ll have heard before.

Probably.

They’ve taken some well-worn ingredients, given them a good shake up, and came out with a musical cocktail which manages to taste both completely familiar and yet excitingly fresh and vibrant at the same time. A rare feat which few are able to master.

Opener “Charlie Darwin” sets the bar pretty high, a gorgeous scene setter for what’s in store, Ben Knox Miller’s lovely falsetto floating in over a gently strummed guitar:

“set the sails I feel the winds a’stirring towards the bright horizon set the way” 

It’s a beautiful beginning and a harbinger of great things to come.

“To Ohio” and “Ticket Taker” maintain the early quality, both being subtle low-key numbers as most of the album tends to be. Things soon take a sharp turn towards the rambunctious though with “The Horizon Is A Beltway”, a superb upbeat romp with a distinct  Shane MacGowan-ish lyric and a vocal delivery to match. It’s followed by the similarly potent “Home I’ll Never Be” which is a reimagining of a Jack Kerouac lyric, originally set to music by Tom Waits a few years ago.

We’re really on a roll by now and next up is “Cage The Songbird”, a moody and atmospheric little gem. It’s a ghostly wee tune with eerie, shadowy harmonies throughout.

“(Don’t) Tremble”: There’s a saying from an old World War II poster that’s come back into fashion in Britain lately, no doubt because of the ongoing economic situation, “Keep Calm And Carry On”. And that’s pretty much the message that this one conveys. Words of reassurance and positivity to a troubled friend perhaps.

Then there’s “Champion Angel” which has a wonderful tension in the music, the electric guitar (which sounds out of place on this record) sounds damned evil at the start and the whole thing descends (or ascends if you prefer !) into an electric blues stomp before coming back to earth, briefly. Then it does it all over again. Quite brilliant.

On the home straight now and “OMGCD” is a world-weary Gospel type track, slightly reminiscent of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”, marvelous and reminds me a little of the Felice Brothers,which is never a bad thing.

That’s about it apart from “To Ohio (reprise)” which you’d assume to be a mere slight return for the previous song but it turns out to be a completely different take on it, arguably better. There’s an electronic template and some lovely strings (or synths) in the background. Maybe the kind of thing you’d imagine Brian Eno coming up with if he’d been asked to remix it.

And that’s your lot.

A seriously wonderful album and the next time some old duffer (like myself !) tells you “they don’t make ’em like they used to” you can prove them wrong and point them firmly in the direction of this treasure trove. They still make ’em, but maybe just not as often……………….

Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland

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If you like The Low Anthem, then check these out as well. 

Track listing

  1. “Charlie Darwin” – 4:33
  2. “To Ohio” – 3:19
  3. “Ticket Taker” – 3:08
  4. “The Horizon Is A Beltway” – 2:51
  5. “Home I’ll Never Be” (Jack Kerouac/Tom Waits) – 2:50
  6. “Cage the Songbird” – 4:03
  7. “(Don’t) Tremble” – 4:39
  8. “Music Box” – 1:52
  9. “Champion Angel” – 5:34
  10. “To the Ghosts Who Write History Books” – 3:31
  11. “OMGCD” – 2:04
  12. “To Ohio (Reprise)” – 3:42

Personnel

  • Ben Knox Miller
  • Jeff Prystowsky
  • Jocie Adams
  • Dan Lefkowitz

Links

 

Hit the arrow below to run the video playlist. You can skip ahead to other songs as well. 


Posted by Stephen Dalrymple
I was so much older then , i'm younger than that now.........


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