FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: THE LOW ANTHEM


Remember when bands made records? Not ten-song collections of iTunes downloads, but complete, thematic bodies of work meant to be analyzed and appreciated as such? It is worth noting that, while the “single” as a concept has been around since long before Steve Jobs revolutionized portable and digital music, many of the most enduring songs of the last half-century were elements of larger artistic statements (“Like a Rolling Stone,” “London Calling,” and “Purple Rain,” to name a few).

With Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, The Low Anthem have crafted a collection of sparse, dynamic songs which, lo and behold compliment one another sonically and thematically. Imagine that. OMGCD deals, in large part, with the terrifying spectre of the American cultural landscape, where prayers are cast into the stratosphere via text message and photographs are “processed,” not developed. At its core, OMGCD is a collection of hymns sung to Dylan, Jack Kerouac and Woody Guthrie, to a country plowed under and built over. As stark as that image may be, The Low Anthem delivers these twelve songs beautifully, the tension palpable but not overwhelming, the fear and anger brimming but not boiling over.

OMGCD was initially released in 2008 as a limited-edition, hand-painted CD and subsequently released when The Low Anthem – Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky and Jocie Miller, the three of whom met while students at Brown – signed with Nonesuch. The re-release garnered The Low Anthem glowing reviews from Uncut, Rolling Stone and a number of other publications, and recognition from Bruce Springsteen and Ray Lamontagne. That’s all fine and good – who doesn’t enjoy the occasional accolade – but the fact is The Low Anthem were going to get recognized at some point. Songs this good will always have an audience.

In the interest of full disclosure, it’s worth mentioning that I just spent a week on tour in support of The Low Anthem, but that run of shows only served to support my opinion that somebody – or, rather, many people – ought to be championing this band. As good as OMGCD is – and make no mistake, it is a very, very good album – the songs are so vital when performed, they take on an almost primal quality. There’s a gravity there that isn’t nearly as evident on the record. Likewise, Miller’s vocals are at once searing and tender live, while the treatment of vocals on the album borrows slightly from Iron and Wine, treading the line between atmospheric and over-processed. The discrepancy between performances on the album and in a live setting is not great – great musicians tend to sound good in any format – but it’s enough that in order to really appreciate The Low Anthem, you’ve got to see the show. Think of the performance as a companion piece to the album, or vice versa.

Some recommendations come with a caveat, “before you pick up this record, you should know…” This is not one. The Low Anthem is a band you need to hear.

The Low Anthem – To The Ghosts Who Write History Books
The Low Anthem – Don’t Let Nobody Turn You Around

The Low Anthem’s Official Site, The Low Anthem on myspace, Buy Oh My God, Charles Darwin

OTIS GIBBS – GRANDPA WALKED A PICKET LINE

I’d been hearing about this album for a while before I was actually able to get my hands on it. Knowing that the album had been available overseas for a month plus before arriving here in the states, I was pretty excited about getting it by the time it was available on Jan. 20. While Grandpa Walked A Picket Line is Otis’s fifth album, it’s my first exposure to the man from Wanamaker, Indiana. I was totally loving his weathered vocals from the moment he started singing, but it was the song “Preacher Steve” that sealed the deal for me. It wasn’t 30 seconds into that song when I was adding it to my “need to write about this” list, and by the time “Long Black Thunder” came through the speakers Mr. Gibbs had already earned himself a new fan.

Following the path that the Drive-By Trucker’s have forged, Otis writes of the normal man’s America, or as he puts it on his website “of an America that you don’t see on the evening news, but it is the America most of us see at our doorsteps.” It’s an America Otis has come to know honestly. Shunning the 9-5 life most of us begrudgingly suffer through, Otis has spent years of his life living on as little as $3000 per year. However, his strife (if you could call it that) is our gain, as it’s resulted in stacks of songs born of honest experience with the real blood of this country. Fuck, maybe that’s all hyperbole, I dunno. I do know this though, Grandpa Walked A Picket Line is most definitely Essential Listening. And while we’re flirting with hyperbole, lemme say that if Todd Snider and Otis Gibbs could make a baby it would be the Woody Guthrie, Hunter S. Thompson and the Jack Kerouac of it’s generation…you know, if we’re gonna get hyperbolic about it.

Otis Gibbs – Long Black Thunder
Otis Gibbs – Preacher Steve
Otis Gibbs – Caroline

Otis Gibbs’s Official Site , Otis Gibbs on myspace , Buy Grandpa Walked A Picket Line