[2 February 2009]
A well-known staple of the Richmond, Virginia music scene, Jonathan Vassar has brought several friends from his local music community to play on his seven-song country folk record, The Hours and the Days. Lush vocal harmonies, delicate banjo picking, and pedal steel join the acoustic guitar, accordion and filmy tenor vocals by Vassar. The album flows through ghostly murder ballads (“About a Dog”), sparse folk lullabies (“Arm & Hammer”) and upbeat gypsy rock (“Knuckle Shuffle”) that weave colorful imagery and memorable lines with haunting narratives.
The limited pressing includes organic packaging and liner notes in the form of a vintage postcard from Richmond (depicting a railway trestle over a stormy James River, a symbol of city pride compelling many Richmonders), affixed to which is a stamp. The notes also allude to Triple Stamp Records, the album’s label. “This hammer is made of flesh and blood”, sings Vassar in “Flesh and Bone” as Josh Small picks the banjo with unique form that sits somewhere between clawhammer and Scruggs. Vassar’s accordion bridges the last verse to the final refrain, and by the end of the album Vassar looks like Tom Waits’ direct descendant.