In Its Fortified Peacefulness, the Lark and the Loon's '2' Entices and Beguiles
The Lark and the Loon's 2 is not a porch stomper; instead it guides a quiet dominance. The Lark and the Loon's music is liberated from the overworking caused by production and technology to garner unadulterated strength.
The Lark and the Loon
20 May 2019
On 2, the recent release from the Arkansas duo the Lark and the Loon, Jeff Rolfzen and Rocky Steen-Rolfzen invite you to join them in a bygone era. Proclaiming a commanding understanding of roots and classic folk music, the Lark and the Loon embolden old-time music to offer listeners a gateway into music's past. Named after the state bird from the state in which they were born, the husband and wife duo use their album to traverse the etymology of American music while imprinting 2 with their own musical alacrity.
The Lark and Loon produce an expressive and dynamic tonality throughout 2. Often sounding similar to a full band, it is easy to overlook they are only a duo. On "Eye of the Storm", for example, their contrasting vocal lines reestablishes a sense of musical control and authority. The track unfolds with a cacophonous harmonica and kazoo interplay symbolizing the storm's turbulence. When their vocals take over, the energy shifts to center their harmonies as the refuge from the figurative action. "Eye of the Storm" contextualizes the mental anguish resulting from creative production and performance. With the hectic timelines worsened by touring and production schedules and the harried demands from fans and producers, it is difficult to remember to "Keep it up / Don't give in / Do everything that you can to win." Life, indeed, can be a frenzy; hence "Eye of the Storm" evokes the importance of weathering the chaos to sustain emotional balance.
Much as "Eye of the Storm" relays a rich musical harmony, "Wishing Well" also delivers a satisfying sound with only one guitar, washboard, wooden stompbox, bass, and vocals. Nestled among old-time jazz motives, the duo paints lush images of throwing coins into a wishing well. As such, the song's power comes from its message. Stark criticism of material and consumer culture, "Wishing Well" rejects consumerism to affirm love and emotional connection: "You could gather every dollar and never have enough / Put your credit card away / You have my love, and you don't have to pay." The sentiment reappears in "Pack Your Suitcase" when high society is rebuffed for itinerancy. Here, the Lark and the Loon censure the false sense of security linked to materialism and advocate for living a blithe life endowed with love. Here, here!
2 triumphantly produces an atmosphere emblematic of a bygone musical era. "The Follies of Love" shines with old-time charm with its illustration of innocent romantic trysts. Yet, 2 also exhibits dark and macabre themes in the jaunty and often bewitching manner associated with classic folk ballads. "Change Our Tune" opens with "Down and out / Hard up times / Seems to describe every day of my life" only to pluck up and find renewal as "someday I am going to change my tune". "Scenes of Midnight's" dependence on the accordion echoes misbegotten a sea shanty yet tempers the Lark and the Loon's adoration for the past with hints of modernity. The duo expresses a consuming desire for a kiss so sweet they are willing to "walk from New York to LA". In doing so, they bridge an antiquated intimacy into the contemporary moment.
Steen-Rolfzen's vocals are spectacular. Her voice often soars above her partner's and captures the listener's attention despite Rolfzen's own vocal talents and the engaging instrumentation. On "To Get to You" her vocals convey a spiritedness so faultless it remedies the duo's, and folk's, reliance on pathos. She holds vocal notes to serve as a hearty counterpoint to the plucked banjo on "Shine What You Got" while on "Take the Stairs" her voice effortlessly jumps octaves. Often, her vocals recall the pre-war era crooners who successfully crossed classical and popular singing styles. What 2 lacks, however, is Steen-Rolfzen's impressive yodeling ability as heard on their previous album. It's strategic to not rely too heavily on such a specific technique. Still, 2 misses the opportunity to showcase Steen-Rolfzen's range and talent fully.
2 is certainly not a porch stomper instead it guides a quiet dominance. The Lark and the Loon's music is liberated from the overworking caused by production and technology to garner unadulterated strength. In its fortified peacefulness, 2 will assuredly entice and beguile.