(Blue Sky Recording, CD)
For an album recorded during a freezing winter, Raven’s Waltz from the Brooke Clover Band carries a somewhat exotic flavor. Unfortunately, it’s never quite spicy enough. The collection’s mild atmosphere leans towards melancholia peppered with short bursts of optimism. It’s as if the New Hampshire-based songwriter can never quite lift his dour mood, though there’s the occasional jolt of potential.
Certain songs do wake you from the generic drone that inundates most of the record. For example, the mambo-tinged opener, “Pirate’s Rum,” gives a decent first impression. It’s the kind of song that would work well in the background during a slow, muggy night at the local bar.
The vibe falls off precipitously after that point, then vaguely resurfaces nearly halfway through at “Kiss Me in the Mud. ” The tune is a quirky blues-tinged number with shades of Taj Mahal — if written by Jonathan Richman, perhaps. The Randy Newman-esque “That’s What I Wanted,” follows. But by that point, what I wanted was to believe that listening to the second half of this CD wouldn’t be a chore. Luckily, those two songs struck before I turned off my iPod.
The milquetoast quality returns, though — until the best Raven’s Waltz has to offer finally shows up in the form of “Lay Down Your Troubles.” As the eleventh of 13 tracks, it’s a long-awaited bright spot. The song hints at a nascent talent and potential hitherto unseen, at least on this effort. It wouldn’t be surprising to hear it on the soundtrack of the next big pseudo-indie film, handpicked by a writer/director desperate for some hipster cred.
Despite this beacon, Raven’s Waltz generally marches towards a slow, bland conclusion. Clover doesn’t forge any new territory and, despite his apparent reach for honest lyrics, most times he just sounds trite. The scattered blues, jazz and folk influences seem less like inspiration and more like samples; there’s simply no cohesive blend.
No reason not to give the guy another chance, though: Brooke Clover plays a solo show at Radio Bean this Saturday.