Between the disbanding of cult college-rock trio Dispatch in 2003 and the group’s reunion tour last summer, band member Pete Francis Heimbold dropped his surname and enthusiastically embraced a solo career. Francis has released four—if you count 2006’s duo outing Everything Is One with longtime songwriting partner Craig Dreyer—countrified folk-pop albums of quiet distinction. His latest, Iron Sea and the Cavalry, finds the New-York-based singer/songwriter in similar territory blending contemplative B-3 organ, spectral lap-steel and the thrashing strum of an acoustic guitar to lyrics vibrant with introspective abstractions that are as pleasurable to listen to as they are, at times, hard to fathom. And aside from the occasional jaunty, hand-clapping summer song (opener “Johnny Ocho’s Lullaby”) or boisterous country-folk number (single “Shooting Star and the Ambulance”), this is a reflective affair that brings to mind the young Cat Stevens, especially on the melancholy album highlight “Stowaway”.
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