Farm, Gray Birds | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Farm, Gray Birds 

Published May 22, 2007 at 7:51 p.m.

(Self-released, CD)

St. Albans will probably never be known as a fount of quality indie-rock, but local boys Farm are making music as though that were indeed the case. I gave their debut CD (released under the short-lived moniker House Horse) a pretty positive review a year or two ago, and I've been eagerly anticipating its follow-up, Gray Birds. I'm pleased to say it doesn't disappoint.

To call Farm indie-rock is a bit like saying Led Zeppelin is just a cock-rock band. While the two acts don't exactly sound alike, both showcase a wide range of influences. In Zep's case, it's American blues, British Isles folk and the Devil. Actually, the same could be said of Farm, if you substitute acoustic Tolkien-isms for Appalachian anguish. But guitarist Ben Maddox does rip like Jimmy Page from time to time.

Gray Birds boasts a whopping 18 tracks, which makes it tough to sum up in this wee space. Let's start with the basics: Each member of the band is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. This kind of situation can engender creativity, but sometimes affects a band's cohesiveness. That's not the case here. Members Maddox, Jedd Kettler and Joshua Givens share a similar musical outlook, which results in some spooky-ass Americana that's unpretentiously rural yet musically sophisticated. Read on for the highlights.

Kettler's sooty ditty "Boomtown Basement" plays like a Stones number from that band's country-blues period. Maddox's Mellotron strings create a lovely sonic pillow for Kettler's gruffly melodic vocals. Note to geeks: These keys are likely a synth emulation of the cumbersome, tape-operated instrument popularized by The Beatles and King Crimson. Real Mellotrons cost more than some houses, and they weigh nearly as much.

I also quite like Givens' "Spineless," which opens with dark, odd-metered chords and eerie slide guitar. The drums are slightly trashy, which gives the tune a ragged majesty. Maddox's guitar solo is patient and modally adventurous, with weird ghost bends and trills.

"Something I Drew" is a twisted little blues tune with gurgling synth tones and laconic vocals, while "Devil" (see, I told you he'd make an appearance) is a black-as-pitch ode to a soul in the grips of evil that literally gave me goosebumps.

As did quite a few of the other tunes, including the molasses-thick "Old City" and the spacey, Eastern-flavored jam "St. Albans Blues." The latter track alone is well worth the price of the disc.

Farm are a unique band with one foot in roughshod rock 'n' roll and the other in experimental folk-blues. The third foot, if they had one, would surely be in the grave.

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About The Author

Casey Rea

Casey Rea

Casey Rea was the Seven Days music editor from 2004 until 2007. He won the 2005 John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


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