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Round Mountain

Windward

(Red Shield; US: 20 Oct 2009; UK: 20 Oct 2009)

Considering how members Char and Robby Rothschild have moved around, doing things like studying djembe in Mali or touring internationally as part of various groups, it’s no real surprise they take sounds from all over the world on Windward. Opener “Don’t Lie Down” thumps with African drums and pulses with bagpipes, and the two come together to make a serene, beautiful sound. All throughout the record disparate influences converge, and Char and Robby handle it all with tight musicianship. Even when the pair strips it down on a song like “In Us All”, each moment is filled subtly with layers of guitar and banjo.


In fact, it’s almost too beautiful. Sure, this seems like an unreasonable complaint, but for an album that tries to be tied so closely to distant family and the lonesome road, musicianship always seems to override any feeling. Their voices are pitch-perfect but indistinct. All the roots they combine wisely aren’t strengthened in combination but mashed together shapelessly under a bright polish. These guys clearly understand music and pay decent homage to the roots they love. But Windward can’t seem to stand up on its own merit.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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