Gregory Alan Isakov. This Empty Northern Hemisphere.

We’ve said it before and here we’ll say it again. One of the pleasures of reviewing albums sent from God knows where is that amidst the chaff there is always some wheat. An album that tumbles into our lap unannounced but which has that essence, that pull which reaffirms our belief that music can be transcendental, beautiful, moving.
From the moment Dandelion Wine poured from the speakers the ears perked up. A skeletal banjo joins a simple guitar line, mournful and desolate before a string section joins in. Isakov ‘s voice floats over this, warm and comforting before it is joined by his sometime vocal collaborator, Brandi Carlisle. A beautiful song it sets the scene for the remainder of this album which envelops the listener in an aural feast. Isakov cites Iron and Wine, Kelly Joe Phelps and Leonard Cohen as his influences but there are elements galore here of Tim Hardin, Nick Drake and the relatively unknown Hobotalk. Overall there is a sense of melancholy delivered with a resigned air as Isakov sings tales of lonely souls, travellers and lost lovers. His lyrics are rich but cloaked in poetic smoke and mirrors, his voice is for the most part wearied and relaxed and on several of the songs he is accompanied by Carlile who harmonises well. The true beauty of the album however is in the textures of the sound. For an album “recorded in many different locations, a closed down bookshop, my apartment, the studio and our friend Brandi Carlile’s house” there is a fantastic sense of dynamics. The songs ebb and flow with an organic feel and the playing is excellent. While most of the songs rest gently on an acoustic guitar bed the instrumental trimmings, be it piano, vibes, banjo, violin, viola or cello support and at times lift the songs into a sumptuous space that is at times mesmerising. He ends the album with a fine cover of a Leonard Cohen song, One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong where he and Carlile capture perfectly Cohen’s miserabilist approach.
Isakov is playing in the UK in June however at present there are no Scottish shows which is a pity.
(Edit) Been informed that there is a Glasgow gig at Brel on June 1st.
website
that Moon Song

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One thought on “Gregory Alan Isakov. This Empty Northern Hemisphere.

  1. Pingback: Gregory Alan Isakov « Blabber 'n' Smoke

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