I hadn't even known there was such a group as The Decemberists until meeting a prog-head working at Barnes & Noble in Torrance (Calif.) and getting into a conversation about the good ol' days (the 70s, or at least what we could remember of them). I mentioned, among the many great bands I'd caught in concert, how much I really dug The Strawbs. "Oh," he said, "then you'll probably like The Decemberists!" "Who?" was the only word I uttered, but here I am now, holding a copy of a Decemberist sub-group. Whoda thunkit?
He was right, though, I do indeed like The Decemberists, and I certainly like Black Prairie, an even rootsier ensemble taking folk music further back while gilding a number of modern nuances. The core of the band, though, dwells in a deep love for, and understanding of, the many sophistications available in a number of elder musics too often lightly scamped in simplistic applications elsewhere. This five-piece makes superb use of accordion, cello, violin, dobro, bazouki, weissenborn, archtop (one of the sweetest sounding guitars there is), bass, and, of course, vocals. In a number of instrumental cuts (Ostinato del Caminito, etc.) is where their most sterling brainworks shine forth, a cornucopistic connubiality of the best of years gone by ghosted into complicated sonic narrative, almost neoclassical.
Annalisa Tornfelt's subdued and moody vocals are wispy but flutter the heart, Rickie Lee Jones on quaaludes, existing halfway between the grave and the open skies. The musicianship of all five is quintessential, honed like the blade of a particularly sharp knife, gleaming, glinting, and crystal clear. As lightly inferred a moment ago, there are instrumentals aplenty bounding all through Feast, so you get an earful amid jigs, reels, bluegrass, and some rather progressive creations that blend String Driven Thing with McKendree Spring and the Grateful Dead by way of String Cheese Incident as conducted by Pierre Boulez. Should just such a concoction please your vagabond soul, sit down by a fire under the stars, pull the stopper on that dandelion wine, and let the inner gypsy have free rein.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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