Empathy Moves the Water is the ninth (and most recent) album from old-timey stalwarts, The Crooked Jades. Following a similar blueprint to previous releases, this nice little chunk of Americana combines traditional obscurities with original material.
The old-timey style is immediately apparent on this record, with fiddle-driven opener ‘Ryland And Spencer (Rise And Bloom Again)’ making a definite impact. The same flavour is retained into track two, with an enjoyable rendition of traditional instrumental, ‘Featherbed’; arranged by the Crooked Jades, with Emily Mann’s fiddle leading the song. ‘Down To The River’, inspired by Mississippi Fred McDowell’s piece of the same name, follows, changing the pace of this disc. It starts darkly, almost ‘dangerously’ before building into a solid, steady, all out blues number – a tactic applied to an arrangement of gospel standard ‘Wade In The Water’ a little later in the record.
One of the strongest tracks on the album is ‘Going Across the Sea’. Again, this builds slowly, with a terrific vocal take which sits alongside the comparatively sparse instrumentation, before the picks and strums of the banjo transform the direction of the song, in some ways, bringing the record back to where it started.
There is a good deal of instrumental numbers on this record, including ‘Mike In The Wilderness’, ‘Yellow Mercury 4’ and the beautiful ‘Am I Born To Die?/Long Time Travelling’, the latter being reprised from an earlier acapella rendition.
The whistle stop tour of all things Americana concludes with another original titled ‘Yellow Mercury 3’; perhaps the most lonesome track of the whole album. Led by the wails of the steel guitar and Jeff Kazor’s vocals, it is a piece which is both melancholy and hypnotic, bidding farewell on the mysterious parting shot “one day, one beautiful morning, I’ll be returned to you”.
Christopher James Sheridan
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‘Wade In The Water’ – live: