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My Record of the Week: Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer - Seed of a Pine

http://www.davemcgraw.net     

This is a first album from Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer (pronounced fair) as a duo; I believe they were both established as singer-songwriters before they discovered they were swimming in the same musical stream and I guess the idea is to see if they can make something quite distinctive from this partnership of equals. Well, this album sounds quite distinctive to me, and very enjoyable to boot.

             The first thing you notice is Dave McGraw’s singing on the opening track, So Comes the Day. He’s got a wonderful voice, baritone I would guess, that carries a huge amount of emotion, experience and sincerity. You can’t help but warm to his singing right from the start; it has such a reassuring quality about it that it’s as if he’s putting an arm around your shoulder to tell you that everything will work out just fine. Mandy Fer’s singing is a complementary contrast to that of her partner; though you can hear they have the same sort of musical background in the area where folk meets country, there’s more edge, more of a yearning, to Mandy’s voice when she takes the lead vocal. This being a partnership of equals they each contribute about half the songs on the album and take the lead vocal on their own songs, taking it in turns to lend each other vocal support. Either way round this arrangement works really well though possibly the sweetest moments come when Mandy is singing back-up, fitting her voice to Dave’s style quite beautifully.

            The songs, from either writer, have a degree of enigma about them; there’s a lot of imagery from rural life and from the wide open spaces, lots of references to the sky, to stars, to pine-topped mountains. There’s even a hint of all this connection to the natural world being a spiritual experience in the manner of Native American connection to their landscape. However, there’s also a rootedness in real lives, too. A couple of songs, one from each of them, could well be talking about the development of their musical partnership, though in neither case is this absolutely explicit. One of Dave McGraw’s songs, Seed of a Pine, seems to be dealing with the story of an old lady stuck in a nursing home whilst the modern world hurtles on around her, ripping her own history asunder in the process. Over and again though, it is never quite clear whose voice we’re hearing or which events are being referred to. Perhaps this is purposeful; a lot of songwriters appreciate that it can be a more rewarding experience all round if there is a little mystery in a song, leaving space for each listener to weave their own experience into what they’re hearing.

             The playing and the production is beautiful, rich and enigmatic like the lyrics and with frequent echoes of music that’s come from the desert south west in the last ten years – Howe Gelb, for one, comes to mind but also the likes of Trilobite and Boris and the Saltlicks. Acoustic guitars tend to be to the fore but it’s some wonderfully supple and resonant use of bass that seems to tap into something very deep. It feels like we’re being drawn into some very serious minded quest, a search for truth and purpose, before the final song, Western Sky, resolves everything with the sweetest, most direct song here, an acceptance that finding someone to share love and life with brings peace of mind like nothing else can.

John Davy

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1
Rod Picott
70 pts.
Out Past The Wires
Welding Rod Music
GC,AN,LM,SZ,TK
2
JW Roy & The Royal Family
62 pts.
A Room Full Of Strangers
Royal Family Records
EM,PJ,DH
3
Steph Cameron
61 pts.
Daybreak over Jackson Street
Pheromona
ML
4
JD McPherson
54 pts.
Undivided Heart & Soul
New West
AR,RK,LK
5
Sarah Morris
53 pts.
Hearts In Need Of Repair
Independent
 
6
Turnpike Troubadours
52 pts.
Long Away From Your Heart
Bossier City Records
MA,GF
7
Chris Hillman
51 pts.
Bidin' My Time
Rounder
 
8
Hayward Williams
39 pts.
Pretenders
Why River Records
KG,JB,JBO
9
Joe Henry
38 pts.
Thrum
Ear Music
 
10
Jim White
37 pts.
Waffles, Triangles & Jesus
Loose Music
JJ
12
Margo Price
35 pts.
All American Made
Third Man Records
 
11
Mark Martyre
35 pts.
Rivers
Independent
MF
13
Mavis Staples
32 pts.
If All I Was Was Black
Anti
HO
 
Peter Oren
32 pts.
Anthropocene
Western Vinyl
RB,HB
15
Fred Wickham
29 pts.
Mariosa Delta
Thirty Days Records
 
16
Jeffrey Martin
27 pts.
One Go Around
Fluff & Gravy Records
HDB
17
Blitzen Trapper
25 pts.
Wild and Reckless
Lojinx
JDO
 
Jeff Crosby
25 pts.
Postcards From Magdalena
At The Helm Records
FCE,FC,JS
19
Dori Freeman
24 pts.
Letters Never Read
Blue Hens Music
 
 
Hardpan
24 pts.
Hardpan
Blue Rose Records
WR
21
The Deep Dark Woods
21 pts.
Yarrow
Six Shooter
JF
22
Lilly Hiatt
20 pts.
Trinity Lane
New West
TJ
 
Tom Russell
20 pts.
Folk Hotel
Frontera Records-Proper Records
JAB
24
Eilen Jewell
19 pts.
Down Hearted Blues
Signature Sounds
MW
25
Dick LeMasters
18 pts.
Incompatible Things
Longneck Road Music
FS

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