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It happens fairly often where I get an Americana/bluegrass CD on my desk. I know I’ve mentioned before that it’s no secret that there is a lot of music that fits under this genre up here. I’ll admit that I keep my fingers crossed these days when popping in new bluegrass/folk music because it’s getting to the point where it’s getting harder for acts in those genres to pull something off that is not only original but honestly good.
Well, it’s happened again. There is nothing too flashy about The Lowest Pair’s latest release “The Sacred Heart Sessions” and that aspect resulted in capturing something amazing. The Lowest Pair is Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Dee and yes, as far as the instruments go, this album is filled with banjo plucking and some softly played acoustic guitar. As far as that goes, it’s well done and it fits the music, but that alone is not exactly what drives this album through.
There are a few things that pull this album together. First, I’ll say the feel of this album is deep. There are a couple of songs that are fun to listen to like “Fourth Time’s a Charm,” with quirky vocal harmonies and the lighter hearted, “Shipwright.” Even in these songs there’s something soulful and sincere. The song writing always feels meaningful and travels from feeling a little haunting and a bit heart breaking like with the track, “In The During of a Moment.” Then it also shows a connection with the surroundings of nature that folk music is known to have at times, but this really nails something that comes across as genuine. The Pines’ album Dark so Gold has a similar feel but The Pair make this music their own. There are plenty of clever hooks going on, but it’s presented in a way that it’s like they’re making something that is catchy and it’s happening without them even trying. It’s like it was just meant to be.
Next, as I suggested, the vocals on this album are strait up stunning. The calm and down to earth cadence of Lee mixed with the drawled out warble tone of Winter’s voice just sits right on each track. Winter’s voice is a little different, which I consider a good thing, but it’s also gorgeous and mesmerizing. The combination of their harmonies is humble and direct.
Moving on, I’ve heard a few things recorded at Sacred Heart that probably could have been passed off well at another studio. With these recordings, the thick natural reverb tone of the church turned music venue and studio compliments their sound perfectly. Not to be clever considering that the studio is a church, but there is some sort of spiritual element that is added by their choice to cut this album there. From each note plucked to each chorus, the mix is heightened by a smooth and shimmering layer of warm echo. They didn’t have to call this album “The Sacred Heart Sessions” but it seems fitting since it plays a pretty major part in how it turned out overall.
What finally makes this album can at least be somewhat attributed to having Tom Fabjance on the engineering and mixing of the album. Fabjance has made himself known as a seasoned studio and live sound engineer working with Big Top Chautauqua for acts like Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and B.B. King to name a few. He has also worked out of the area as “front of house” with bands like Smashing Pumpkins and worked with venues such as Cabaret Metro in Chicago where he’s ran sound for big 90s acts like Nirvana, The Pixies and Soundgarden. Fabjance probably didn’t have too much trouble handling a couple of instruments and a couple of vocals, the album was recorded in two days in August.
I appreciate things like synths, electric guitar solos, sick drumming and well done production tricks, but every once and awhile there is just some music that holds up on it’s own. “The Sacred Heart Sessions” falls into this area where nothing more was needed than this duo taking a minimalist approach and letting what they do shine through in a room that definitely captured and added to their sound. I hadn’t heard The Lowest Pair before this but I did know this album would at least be alright with Fabjance recording it. After the first listen through I was sold and after a few more listens, I have to say this album is fantastic. I’m pretty sure listeners who like Mazzy Star or The Pines should be able to get into this album quite easily.