As solid as it is different
Reviewed October 2009
Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
By The Low Anthem
Nonesuch Records: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
The new release from East Coast combo The Low Anthem is often brilliant, the conceptualization consistently singular and the many highlights spine-tingling.
At its best on songs like "Ticket Taker," "To Ohio" and "(Don't) Tremble" the band creates a unique blend of stripped-down folk music and old-timey vaudeville. It's an odd combination, but in the hands of The Low Anthem, it works wonderfully, Imagine having a pump organ or tuba accompanying Woody Guthrie or more to the point, having that pump organ and tuba backing Boz Scaggs singing Woody Guthrie's songs in an acoustic setting.
Ben Knox Miller's voice is sensitive enough to caress your ears on the slower tracks, but he can dip into a wiry growl for the Springsteen-esque "The Horizon is a Beltway" or a rocking cover of Tom Waits' "Home I'll Never Be" and the equally raucous "Champion Angel."
On the downside, the opening track, "Charlie Darwin," is so overproduced and Miller's falsetto so haunting that it comes across closer to Enya than anything else.
But that's about the only negative thing that can be said about "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin."
Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).