Paul Hiraga’s Downpilot follow up last year’s acclaimed and TV featured They Kind of Shine with New Great Lakes. Recorded far from the strains of city life, though remaining subtly referential to it at points throughout, Hiraga wrote and recorded in the woodland setting of Seattle’s Vashon Island, and herein captured is the more intimate, solo affair this fourth Downpilot outing harbours.
Employing acoustic guitar and piano, and recording with a variety of homemade equipment musically New Great Lakes remains consistently strong, with a voice, and musicianship that for all its piano balladry feels heavily indebted to Jackson Browne for his vocally heavy stream-of-consciousness laments; ‘NY Storms’ most reminiscent of the ’70s songwriter. While the record holds strong to the mid-tempo template Hiraga does show he can turn up the pace on the more atmospheric of numbers such as ‘Desolation Pass.’ While the likes of Anne Marie Ruljancich assist vocally on ‘Through Your Lines’ adding some depth and diversity.
As a whole New Great Lakes remains a strong listen, no track standing out as sub par though there are a handful that by far excel: the album opener and ‘NY Storms’ definitely getting FRUK’s votes. Certainly worth a listen for those who like new branches of Americana to feel as timeless as those they derive from.