Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tom Carter & Christian Kiefer (#8, 2008)

These are the folk songs generations old everybody knows but somehow the tradition the common sound have broken down in respectful tones improvisational drones a new generation now.
Doo-dah, doo-dah.

"Camptown Races" - From the Great American Songbook (2008)

Tom Carter was in Houston pysch heavies The Mike Gunn during the early '90s. Then he followed up with the prolific Charalambides - quieter, folkier, more ambient, droney and feminine (and originally with Kyle Silfer). More recently, he's played in a variety of line-ups: solo, side-project/super-groups like Badgerlore, and one-off duos/combos.

Christian Kiefer seems to have furrowed similar ground, maybe a bit more traditional Americana but still on the edge. He (and others) received some NPR coverage for their one-song-per-president 3xCD project, and for a late addendum song for Obama. If I'd been paying attention to that, I wouldn't have been quite so surprised when Pitchfork reviewed the duo's 2nd album, From the Great American Songbook (2008). And positively!

From the Great American Songbook
Other than Beyond the Wizards Sleeve, this was the toughest to get ahold of, but I'm glad I didn't just download from iTunes. For one, the packaging is really super-fancy - with a separate cardstock liner notes insert for each song, written by such avant and folk luminaries as Tony Conrad, Sharron Kraus, even Byron Coley! Maybe it seems like I'm putting off discussing the music. I am.

It's hard for me to tell if I would really recommend this to too many people. It's folky, but not all mellow. It's droney, but rarely ever noisy. There are some drums and some vocals. It's all "covers" of old-timey popular songs, but they're hardly recognizable since they're mostly guitar-duo-plus improv. But to me, it's really amazing - to listen to intently, to drive around with, to have in the background. The whole thing is so fully-formed, well done, and just feels really right. It truly transports me - your mileage may vary.

I specifically chose "Camptown Races" because it's neither the most instantly catchy tune nor a death blues drone, and more typically instrumental than rhythmic or vocal - so I thought it was a good representative sample. Kind of a hub that the album's diversity could rotate around. See why it took me a week to move on to #8 of 2008's Top 10??

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