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Consafos: Tilting at Windmills

Jason MacNeil

In the vein of the Cowboy Junkies if they were cloned by Lou Reed who was being horsewhipped by John Cale, Consafos take sparse haunting songs and knead them into delicious sonic nuggets.


Tilting at Windmills

Label: Greyday Productions
US Release Date: 2005-04-19
UK Release Date: Available as import
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Consafos have a few things going for them. One is that they are led by Stefanie Drootin, who is a rootin' tootin' front woman. Drootin, who has also worked with Bright Eyes and The Good Life, gives this album hushed, whispered vocals that are a stew of Neko Case, PJ Harvey and Gillian Welch. This is especially true on the mountain-esque opener "On And On", which has a melancholy sway before hitting its stride after the first verse. Drummer Alance Ward keeps it all together, and then out of left field the track opens its arms and welcomes a trumpet into the mix. This is where the tune really opens up -- a series of sounds piled together for a much greater effect. From there we stroll down an ambling, jaunty mid-tempo portion that works yet again. Rarely do three ideas so different meld into one continuously catchy affair. A new take on classic country or alt. country, the number is extremely good and too easy on the ears. Think of Blanche inspired by Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother and it should make some sort of impression. How the hell could it not?

Another thing that Consafos has going for them is their guitarist Billy Talbot, the son of Crazy Horse's Billy Talbot. While not a major player on the first song, Talbot comes to the fore during "Welcome Mat". The song is a slow-moving tune that inches along perfectly, sounding as if they're auditioning for "Cowboy Junkies Idol" -- a moving and haunting tune that evolves with Drootin's vocals becoming stronger and yet more fragile at the same time. "Pack up and go back home and leave our lives alone", she sings as a trumpet is heard in the distance. Again they shift gears during the tune, showing another mid to up-tempo groove that you can sink your teeth into. You will be hard pressed to find two openers this well polished and performed. And if you get bored, the song evolves and swerves into another area seemingly within seconds. The title track has a Celtic bend to it, as Ward uses the brushes to keep the song focused and moving forward.

A third thing that Consafos has going for them is how they are consistently writing better-than-above-average material. The tone and mood is often similar, but the group manages to make each song stand out. As Drootin sings, "Live life live life to the full", and the band seems to echo that statement musically each time. Talbot's genetics come into play during the rockier and rowdier "Seneca", which features the rhythm section being dragged along by Drootin and Talbot. It's the brightest tune thus far but doesn't stray too far from their majestic musical blueprint. "Chelsea's Got A Knife" is an eerie kind of tune that evokes the image of Drootin at the top of the stairs with a knife dripping crimson as she nonchalantly descends downwards. Yet again after two minutes, this turns into another path, albeit in a foggy, hazy manner. Drootin and Talbot shine on the lovely roots-ish ballad "Wide Eyed", as harmonica, acoustic guitar and voice combine in perfect harmony.

The track which might be considered the lone exception to an otherwise great record is "Broken Record" which sounds like, well, refer to the title. The vinyl groove keeps the needle effect running throughout, making the listener disconnect with the song somewhat. This goes away but the number doesn't really measure up to the quality of the album overall. "Angel From Hell" fares better with its lullaby-meets-music-box-dancer touches. The pacing stutters somewhat roughly a minute in, before righting itself quickly. After listening to the rock-solid foundation of "Resurrection", which is perhaps the yin to the yang Sons & Daughters effuses, you realize you've spent the last 35 minutes in a very good headspace thanks to this album. Just a gorgeous, melodious meets rock romp.


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