Not For Us Two is as disarmingly lovely as any country rock album you’ll hear this year—or this decade—a nearly ideal agglomeration of melancholy pedal steel, close, minor-key harmonies and weathered rumination. Kevin O’Rourke, who essentially is Lo-Fine, has a gentle, rueful voice that is quite reminiscent of Matthew Sweet. His voice is faded, world-weary in a way that slips right under your skin, set off by slow blossoming jangle and aching twang. Not since the Jayhawks has a band evoked the luminous shimmer and deep shadows of quality country pop. Dense cuts like “Remotely Together” builds cumulus towers of vocal harmonies, in a circling, round-like layering of voices, while sparser ones like “Runaway Lullaby” make their impact with terse ellipses. “You used to say one word/for every ten you should/and you spoke ten thoughts/for every two that had words,” observes O’Rourke in “Runaway Lullaby” as apt a description of his own lyrical laconicism as of the girl he’s leaving. The music’s lived and comfortable, thanks to the support of a Western Massachusetts all-star cast—Jose Ayerve of Spouse, Mark Mulcahy of Spouse and Bruce Tull, who sometimes sits in with Joe Pernice lend assistance, alongside long-time collaborators Mark Schwaber, Thane Thompson and Brian Marchese. This is special. If you ever laid in bed all Sunday morning listening to Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend or got over a lost love to the soundtrack of Hollywood Town Hall, you ought to hear Not for Us Two.
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