After the immense disappointments of folkers like Jeff Buckley and Andy White, I figured the whole folk thing was pretty much over, heaved a sigh, and trudged off into the sunset. Then I started writing for this site and changed my mind, also revivifying a fading enamorment with bluegrass and kindred sounds. Somewhere along the line, I got the Guggenheim Trio CD and was reminded that "haunting" still had its place as an adjective in music criticism. Now comes this EP and its manifold excellences, at once fidelitous to elder virtues and simultaneously experimental, as progressive as an Al Stewart release and a distant cousin to Mickey Newbury's second version of In A New Age. Jimmy Reeves' The Axe & The Tree is a testament to the fact that "stripped down" doesn't have to refer to a couple of Goths bleating about the pleasures of the grave with out-of-tune guitars and a broken accordion.
The singer-composer has been scoring appearances at such respected NYC establishments as The Knitting Factory, and this CD's an easy vouchsafe for the reasons why. His work is indeed haunting, simple and powerful, thoughtful above its marvelously literate dreariness, perfectly recorded, and indicative of a musican who will definitely turn out a magnum opus as soon as he can get it underwritten. Shades of Cat Stevens' down side, a depressed Nick Drake, and maybe even a suicidal Dave Cousins lay down beside Reeves' own distinctive voicings to turn this foray into a court case demanding a full release. The trick to this mode is the ability to embody lamentive frailty while convincingly imbuing the listener with the strength of the visions and disappointments conveyed. The very first track, Jonah, accomplishes both in turn but also individually; that is, the quailing introversion first displayed is palpable and visceral, not just stage dressing. Then restrained anger makes its way into the title cut, a modern parable about Noah, revealing the true underbelly of depression: resistance to a slide into apathy. Very canny. Just above that, of course, is despair and The Axe & The Tree* is loaded to the gills with it, the Broken Glass Winows chorus best summarizing the matter: "It goes on and on and on / on and on and on" repeated forlornly over and over, deepening the listener's apprehenson of true ennui.
Despite whatever ennervation and dissipation this may all seem to indicate, the CD is amazingly solid, and Reeves has an assured future.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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