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Lo-Fine

Not For Us Two

(Pigeon; US: 8 Apr 2008; UK: Available as import)

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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