Not only is this a really great Appalachian-slanted folk ensemble, but it's a product entirely dedicated to green principals. The packaging is 100% recycled materials printed with nontoxic vegetable inks coated with biodegradable corn cellulose, and the band is planting trees to offset the pollution created in shipping it. Okay, Richard Greene and Air America, you corporate bastards, one-up that!
Every cut here is entirely heartfelt, played by four lads singing and pickin' away at string instruments (with a bit harmonium & glockenspiel to the side), masters of their axes, very high-level craftsmen at the art. Several session people are brought in for backing vocals and a bit of percussion, but the base quartet is a mighty ensemble in and of itself and stays mostly within its own confines. Not a track is less than impeccable, the gents' executions a wonder to hear. There's a reason for that, though: coming from studies at Berklee and Georgetown as well as a residency in the Illinois Symphony, not mention at least one jazz background, each of the gents has immersed himself deeply in music from various modes before settling into this magnificent incarnation.
Echoes of McKendree Spring and The Hometown Band leak through, but these guys have those old estimables thoroughly aced. Not a bar or measure is less than perfection. All that training has resulted in a heavenly, long, 18-cut masterpiece of folk, bluegrass, and cutting edge alt/trad marvels. More than once the lads wax gently orchestral, as in Early to Bed, obtaining a lushly beautiful atmosphere as warm and breezy as a spring afternoon, Philip Roach's multi-tracked violins swirling and floating while the banjos, guitars, and mandos dance and lark, counterpointing mellifluous chorals.
From start to finish, this fine CD will have you first holding your breath, then dancing and swaying in delighted concord. The only comparative I could conjure is The Guggenheim Grotto (here), though The Giving Tree Band is worlds away from that ensemble's pop world. Nonetheless, there's an unmistakable influx of subtle genius running through both that ties them to one another and to kindred creatives who keep their flame of unbridled creativity close to the heart's origins.
And please don't rush through the accompanying booklet—unfortunately, it doesn't reprint the band's very intelligent lyrics, but folksinger Michael Johnathan provided an essay perfectly attuned to The Giving Tree Band's spirit. It's well written and provides many additional insights. I suggest you pore over the pages while throwing the disc on; it will only enhance the entire experience.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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