If any of you are familiar with the group the Muses, then you’ll undoubtedly already be familiar with one of its key members, Butch Boswell. When the band broke up, Boswell pushed on towards a solo project that would feature his talents as a multi-instrumentalist. Lo-Fi, Boswell’s latest release on Something Sacred, is the result of that project. It’s a work of simple beauty, embracing both Boswell’s country and pop tendencies, and as such is a fine example of pure American music that stands uniquely on its own.
Lo-Fi was recorded entirely on a Boss BR8 eight-track recorder. Boswell also enlisted the help of Adam Farber on bass, Jeremy Davenport and Elliot Haro on drums, and Joel Tolbert on keyboards and accordion. Together, these men have created a warm, intimate sounding recording that is benefited by the simple production. It’s at once both accessible and inviting; Boswell’s version of “lo-fi” is strikingly almost anything but. On this album he has achieved a stately depth of indie grandeur while upping the ante in terms of what you can do with a standard eight-track recorder and the sounds you can attain from such recordings.
At the offset, Lo-Fi pulls you in gently and never lets go until the final notes. The opening “All Those Sinners” features Boswell’s acoustic guitars, supplying both the backing rhythm and the riffs, which are gorgeously plucked out like magic from his six strings. And if you listen closely, you might just hear Butch’s banjo clicking along happily in the right stereo channel. “Aw Jean, you’re somethin’ of a sight / Well I think I’d feel a lot better if you just spent the night / I’d sleep a lot better with you lyin’ right beside me / Don’t deny me, I think you’re fine,” sings Boswell, as some absolutely sweet vocal harmonies gather around the lines. Butch’s voice itself has just the right amount of twang that suits this brand of acoustic bluegrass-like pop perfectly.
Thos harmonies appear again in “Winters Lonely Song”, a nice pop song that echoes such classics as the Kinks’ “Autumn Almanac” or “Sunny Afternoon” with just a dash of Beach Boy harmonies tossed in. This time, Boswell’s electric guitar plays along gently with his acoustic as Joel Tolbert sprinkles his electric piano notes into the mix. Alternately, “Like She Used To” is a delicate waltz featuring weeping steel guitars and more of Tolbert’s beautiful keyboard touches. Probably the best aspect of Boswell’s music is its ability to dip into more countrified territory without turning into some sort of cheesy or corny amalgam.
“The Knife Throwin’ Kind” features some gritty lead guitar lines and nice mandolin rhythms as the brushed drums and sudden muted cymbal crashes add a simple dramatic depth to the proceedings. “Too Far Away” exploits Tolbert’s fascinating keyboard work yet again, and “You Don’t Have to Worry Anymore” is almost like a Cajun honky-tonk tune with its accordion flourishes. All in all, Lo-Fi is a majestic, understated masterpiece that reaches across the genre boundaries to tug in any and all who hear its sweet melodies.
Butch Boswell is not lacking in any talent. He has many influences, but instead of making them become the obvious driving forces behind his work like so many musicians elect to do these days, he instead neatly tucks them away in his deep pockets and only shows them when the time is right. You can listen to his songs and get a taste of what once was, but at the same time you hear Boswell’s own voice, his own music on top of it all. The influences remain influences, as well they should. Boswell has too much talent of his own to cloak it in decades gone by. Thankfully he doesn’t, making Lo-Fi an absolutely essential purchase and hands-down one of the best American releases this year. Don’t miss out.