From the first, Curtis Harvey’s solo debut reveals itself as quite a departure for the man best known until now as the prodigious multi-instrumentalist behind Rex (Southern) and Pullman (Thrill Jockey).
While Harvey is loath to cite specific musical inspiration for his first solo outing, he admits that his first exposure to live music was an aunt and uncle’s bluegrass duo, and that records from the likes of the Carter Family and Bill Monroe, as well as contemporary neotraditionalist Gillian Welch, get a lot of airtime in his house.
Box Of Stones certainly pledges allegiance to the acoustic-folk mode and embraces traditional song structures, but stylistic permutations shine throughout: from dark campfire sing-along “Seen,” to bright, Fahey-esque instrumental “Nod,” to the driving carnival blues of album closer “Bad Patch.”
Recorded in the small studio in Harvey’s basement, Box Of Stones’ compelling immediacy owes much to his immersive process, with Harvey playing everything and often recording the vocals in only one take; for percussion, Harvey says, he used “whatever happened to be [around] at the time: bottles, pencils, pots and pans, an old snare and bass drum.” For “Seen,” Harvey recorded the audience at a live show at Brooklyn’s Union Pool as they accompanied him on the chorus.
The result is an intimate, live sound, perfect for this compelling collection of deeply personal songs.
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