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Don Chambers | Back in the Wood | review | rock | Lollipop
Back in the Woods (Perfect Pitch)
by Brian Varney
Holy Tom Waits! With this album's homegrown production, raspy-voiced vocals, and Southern backwoods instrumentation (lotsa banjo, standup bass, and odd percussion) taken in tandem with my known mania for the complete works of Mr. Waits, there's no mystery why this was sent to me.
Though the Waits thing is the first thing you'll notice, it's not necessarily the most accurate descriptor of Don Chambers' sound. Though the vocals themselves are ridiculously Waitsian (albeit about 200 cartons of cigarettes ago), the music itself is not so obvious. Less percussion-driven and far less idiosyncratic than modern-period Waits, Back in the Woods is a lot closer to a traditional folk record than, say, Swordfishtrombones.
In all, Back in the Woods is still a bit singer-songwritery for my tastes, though the disc is not without its highlights. "Strange Faith" has a nice jump in its step and stands to garner plenty of spins in the coming weeks. The thing that really saves this from folky hell is the ambience hinted at above, the sound of a handful of guys who really like Neil Young's On the Beach gathered at midnight in a cabin in the middle of the Georgia woods, guys passing a bottle of whiskey around while they bang on whatever object ("real" musical instrument or not) happens to be close at hand. Yet despite the potential for anarchic noise or hippy drum circle nonsense, this manages to feel loose and woozy yet totally together. Chambers' vocals and banjo are always front-row center, the accompanying clatter adding interesting elements to the overall texture without derailing the whole thing.
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