Following solo releases, the pair made their duo debut two years back with Seed Of A Pine, a collection of acoustic folk, country and blues that underlined their storyteller approach, his folksy approach and dusty vocal balancing her lighter soprano and the bluesier, sometimes jazzy, textures of her guitar work. Although there’s a little more focus on them as a duo rather than debut’s fuller band sound, recorded in their forest home in northwest Washington with Po’Girl producer Zach Goheen behind the desk and featuring the rhythm section of Andrew Lauher and Christopher Merrill with Mike Grigoni on lap steel and Sasha Von Dassow on cello, the follow-up doesn’t ring any particular changes in terms of style for form, each again making their own contributions as well as a couple of co-writes.
The album opens with ‘Helicopter’, Jerome Holloway adding harmonies behind McGraw’s lead on a moodily fingerpicked, bluesy number with an early hours feel before Fer takes over on ‘Compass’, a folk blues about constant travelling and yearning for home. Recalling a visit to Amsterdam, and namechecking both Anne Frank and Rembrandt, ‘Carillon’ keeps the mood hushed, Fer providing counterpoint to McGraw’s lead while Von Dassow’s cello provides the foundation, as does ‘Could Be Ghosts’, another of Fer’s life on the road songs, Grigoni’s lap steel enhancing the melancholic feel. If Fer’s songs concern the restless spirit, McGraw’s songs are more about being back home, his lyrics veined with images of nature, as with ‘Morning Song’ with its lines about sturdy fenceposts and alder trees or on the bluesy, edgy rhythm of ‘How The Sea’ where he sings about the mountains calling him back home and the smoke from his chimney.
If you’re looking for variety of mood and tempo, this is probably not the place to seek. While ‘Rain On The Rosemary’ and ‘Silence’ may feature the ebb and flow of brooding electric guitar, briefly gathering pace on the latter, nothing rises much above a prowl or pulse, the dynamics and tension restrained like brittle nerves on things like the sparse fingerpicked ‘Dark Dark Woods’, the tightly leashed electric folk-rock ‘Tide Moon Ship Horn’ with Fer’s cascading vocals and its vaguely trad air, and the quietly rippling ‘Conspiracy of Ravens’, a philosophical acceptance of life’s sorrow and seed.
If you’re looking for something to soundtrack those quiet hours and introspective reflections, this is the musical equivalent of the moon on the tides.
Artists’ website: www.daveandmandymusic.com
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