Death Vessel Stay Close 2005

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Artist: Death Vessel
Title Of Album: Stay Close
Year Of Release: 2005
Label: ATP Recordings / ATPRLP27
Genre: Acoustic, Indie Folk
Total Time: 41:58 min
Format: Mp3 / FLAC (tracks, vinyl)
Quality: CBR 320 kbps / Lossless
Total Size: 102 mb / 230 mb

There's an inescapable sideshow quality to the band Death Vessel. Listening to the 10 sepia-toned folk songs on its debut, Stay Close, you can almost hear some carnival barker loudly exhorting midwaygoers to step right up and see THE BOY WHO SINGS WITH THE VOICE OF A GIRL. Inside the tent sit a stage, an old microphone, and an unassuming man named Joel Thibodeau gently plucking an old guitar. None of it would strike anyone as out of the ordinary...until Thidodeau opens his mouth to sing. From that masculine frame emanates a woman's voice, one that doesn't just hit the higher registers like some Appalachian castrati, but possesses an assertive feminine lilt reminiscent of Laura Cantrell or Iris DeMent.
But this isn't the typical androgyny of glam, which has no freight in the Americana traditions Death Vessel adopts. Gender isn't an issue inherent in the band's music, but is projected onto it by listeners and passively undiscouraged by the artist himself. Thibodeau-- who plays most of the instruments on the album-- doesn't write from a female perspective-- or from a male perspective either; on Stay Close the point of view is deliberately clouded by the delivery, which adds a layer of mystery to every note. As complex and compelling as it is, this aspect of Death Vessel proves as much a liability as an asset, often suggesting the mere novelty of a physical feat rather than actual artistry. On a few songs-- most notably the jaunty openers "Mean Streak" and "Later in Life Lift"-- Thibodeau's vocal delivery sounds like an end in itself, but more often it serves the purposes of his precisely crafted melodies and obscurely out-of-time lyrics, melding nicely into the mix of acoustic guitars, banjo, fiddle, and organ.
From the hand-drawn cover art to the history-bound, occasionally impenetrable lyrics-- "The load is unneat, sprawling oddly/ J-ing the stern, pelicanly," he sings on "Blowing Cave"-- Stay Close has an antiquated style reminiscent of the 1999 movie Wisconsin Death Trip, which reenacts 19th century news stories about wintry deaths and rural despairs. Occasionally this atmosphere sounds studied and rehearsed, but moments like the coda of "Nothing Left to Bury" and the menacing drum-guitar interplay on "Deep in the Horchata" suggest a creative investment that transcends put-on airs. A mortal dread, played out with tensely intertwined guitar lines and gusts of feedback, shadows "Blowing Cave" and "Tidy Nervous Breakdown", making even the capriciousness of upbeat songs like the bluegrass "Mandan Dink", about a leisurely day at a place called Picnic Rock, seem precarious.
Stay Close hits its stride on the last three songs, starting with his spacious cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Snow Don't Fall". On "Deep in the Horchata" he scratches out a melody on fiddle to echo his own vocals, as Daneil Mazone's drums stitch everything together. "White Mole" ends the album with a nearly instrumental coda, as Thibodeau's soft ooh's usher listeners out of his world and back into the hubbub of the midway.
01. Mean Streak (03:01)
02. Later in Life Lift (03:04)
03. Blowing Cave (04:13)
04. Break the Empress Crown (05:10)
05. Nothing Left to Bury (05:12)
06. Mandan Dink (03:33)
07. Tidy Nervous Breakdown (02:21)
08. Snow Don't Fall (03:34)
09. Deep in the Horchata (03:33)
10. White Mole (04:30)
:: CBR 320 kbps ::

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