Monday 22 April 2013

Woodsman Orphan - My Name is Ishmael Ali

Album review by

It's all about the duos at the moment. Woodsman Orphan are Jean 'J' Adirondack and Doug Stram from Connecticut and were formerly known as My Name Is Ishmael Ali, so it kind of makes sense that they should release an album of the same name to keep a continuity flowing and ensure that a few more casual fans don't lose track of them completely, as from what we can gather, they've been together since 2000 and this is the first album under the new moniker. So they may be a reasonably long way into their career but on this evidence this hasn't transferred to more polished music, yearning for extra public attention, Kings Of Leon stylee.

Recorded on a four-track, 'My Name Is Ishmael Ali' sounds as though it was all done in one take, and it may have been. There's a distinct live feel that hits you on the opening seconds of first track 'The Barn'. The buzz of the clattering drums and the bobbling bass adding extra charm and life to the songs. They mention that their sound is what you wanted Neil Young's music to eventually become. A big claim, and possibly an unusual one. If Neil Young had become lazy, formed Pavement and shunned success then it probably would sound like this. And by the way, this is not a criticism. Woodsman Orphan do sound like a lo-fi Neil Young and this is actually a very good thing.

They verge on primitive garage-rock when they get to 'Credits', following the double-headed Neil Young-ish opening, and then they turn all sentimental on twinkling slowie 'Dandilion Wine' (it's them who can't spell "dandelion" by the way, not us) but then it's back to sounding like demos from 'Harvest' for 'Head', 'Stones Part 2' and 'Through Glass Doors', barring the samples and '90s college-rock vibe of 'One Year'. We also get what could be a Grandaddy demo on 'Sorry About The Time' and rickety alt-rock on 'Rhinestone'. 'My Name Is Ishmael Ali' sounds very DIY, maybe even a bit flimsy, but this is what makes it so likable; the music feels alive, living and breathing. The fact that it contains some very fine tunes is even more cause for it to be celebrated.

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