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Rhode Island trio deliver
affecting album of chamber folk

The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
(Nonesuch Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 16, 2009
The Low Anthem

Review by Tony Bonyata

On The Low Anthem's sophomore effort, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, the Providence, RI trio have tapped into the new wave of chamber-folk much in the way Fleet Foxes, Iron & Wine and Sufjan Stevens all recently have. But what sets them apart from these great acts is that they incorporate much more into the big picture of their sound. Folk hymns gleefully dance with stomping blues, rocking Americana and backwoods gospel, and while at first it may seem as if the floor's a bit crowded, it actually proves just how broad and deep the band's knowledge of American music history is, while also showing they're not afraid to rewrite a few chapters to fit the times.

The album opens gently with the beautiful harmonies on the autumn hymnal "Charlie Darwin" and lilting folk of "To Ohio" and "Ticker Taker" before exploding into the gruff Tom Waits inspired smokers "The Horizon Is A Beltway" and the moonshine-soaked "Home I'll Never Be," the latter a song actually written by Beat writer Jack Kerouac and later recorded by Waits for his Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards album. The intensity continues elsewhere through the rambling and rocking "Champion Angel."

The threesome continue to weave in the soothing song stylings of Iron & Wine's Samuel Beam on the lovely "(Don't Tremble)" and "To The Ghosts Who Write History Books" while delivering the sweet folk hymns "Cage The Songbird" and "OMGCD" along with the serene and peaceful instrumental "Music Box," where the organic melody seems to be orchestrated by little more than the morning breeze.

With all its different styles and sounds this entire album may not make total sense after just one listening, but after time it manages to leave a deep and lasting impression. This is definitely one of the more promising albums (and new bands) of 2009.

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