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taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

THE DELUGE — Cryin’ On the Vine

Shooting for the prickly groove of Leftover Salmon with the songwriting sensibilities of Railroad Earth, the Deluge’s debut album Cryin’ On the Vine is equal parts bouncy mountain funk and high and lonesome pickin’ tunes. Opener “Sky Is Blue” is backed by the strong syncopation of its swing groove with references to American Beauty-era Dead.

“Union” goes on about three verses too long and the ever-building “Last September” lacks a distinct hook before finally fading out. The album’s musicianship is unquestioned, however. Brandon Knox’s unusual vocal cadence drives the pace from track to track, but its flexibility is his real strength. He’s gentle and expressive on the Dave Matthews-y “Starless Night” and “Inside Pocket,” high and lonesome on “The Likes of Man,” and deep and soulful with splendid harmonies on closer “Bags Packed,” a song dominated by outstanding solos, from the fluttery mandolin of James Bernabe to the woeful electric guitar of Chris Lord. Because the influences Cryin’ On the Vine draws on are so distinct, it at times sounds like any other rootsy, danceable album that’s been heard before, but it’s still not without its merits. It’s both hit and miss, but Vine will eventually grow on you.

71/100

The Deluge will perform at J. Butler’s on Saturday.

LOST IN THE TREES — All Alone In an Empty House

Completely unrelated in sound, but so akin in theory, Bill Laswell attempted to fuse metal with turntablism in the early ’90s with Praxis and ended up with some good metal tracks and some good turntable tracks, and Ari Picker has done the same with folk and classical through his folk orchestra project Lost In the Trees. He succeeds beautifully on the title track to open the album, marrying cellos, acoustic guitars and haunting vocal vibratos perfectly, though his lyrics feel heavy-handed and overwrought. Soon after, the album loses its way. “Mvt. I &II Sketch” are purely classical tracks completely bereft of folk influence, while every track from “Song for the Painter” and on are their mirror image. Lacing rock and folk with bits of shimmering string, as Picker attempts to pass off almost entirely on the album’s latter half, is a well-worn path and does not true fusion make. Picker gets extra credit for such an ambitious and original effort, but it’s an album for either the intensely depressed to wallow in it’s emotional bi-polarity or intensely pretentious to lord over the heads of the unapprised; pretty most of the time, but ultimately just empty.

73/100

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