Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bowerbird much?

Bowerbird much? That's the question posed to me yesterday by a friend and the answer of late is 'indubitably.' Hymns For A Dark Horse was a slow-burner for me - requiring several listens to digest the material, but over the last month it has absolutely caught fire. I can't stop returning to this record and I can't help but believe that when the group sings "you're in our talons now / and we're never letting go," they're speaking directly to listeners.

This trio from Raleigh, North Carolina is comprised of Phil Moore (guitar, hi hat, lead vocals), Beth Tacular (accordion, autoharp, percussion, vocals) and Mark Paulson (violin, foot synth, percussion, vocals), and while it's Moore's vocals that will stand out on first listen, repeat plays reveal the complex relationship between the three that makes their material so compelling. One example: Paulson's violin echoes Moore's voice on "The Marbled Godwit" - neither possesses a traditional beauty, but the aching attempt to transcend their limits is my kind of gorgeous.

Hymns For A Dark Horse was originally released in the spring of 2007, but the fine folks at Dead Oceans came to the same conclusion John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats did: "It is beyond stunning. This band is the complete package." And if props from friggin' John Darnielle isn't enough - the band is opening for Calexico throughout November (and seriously, if you live in one of the cities this bill is playing, why don't you have tickets yet?!).

If you can get past the beautiful music this trio makes - and believe me, it may take several listens with a song like "Bur Oak" and the way their voices interplay on the chorus with Paulson and Tacular coming in above and just behind Moore to get beyond the song - close attention to the lyrics reveal some marvelous vignettes and address timely and timeless themes alike.

I'll leave you with not one, but two fantastic videos that were filmed as part of La Blogotheque's "concert a importer" series (which is FANTASTIC - check out the Bon Iver stuff if you can - but I digress). The first is "In Our Talons," the lyrics of which I quoted in that first paragraph. The latter is the indescribably beautiful "Bur Oak." It'll be lodged in your head for days and I'm not sorry for that.

Don't forget to visit their Myspace page and website.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

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