Wes Tirey’s self-released E.P, I Stood Among Trees is the Midwest singer songwriter’s first venture since the split of his band, The Bull and The Bear. Tirey’s five track EP initially seems to epitomise the American Midwest, carrying the listener through the Great Lakes, and around the Rust-Belt. His inspirations immediately shine through, from Leonard Cohen to Townes Van Zandt. Wes writes, “I try to be really conscious and aware of my environment”. His songs resonate deep within the listener’s emotions, painting vivid images of landscapes and his surroundings growing up in Ohio. However, on closer inspection Tirey’s story isn’t as straightforward as first imagined. Delving deeper into the lyrics and his background, you come to realise that travelling plays a significant role in his songs, along with the homesickness, loss, and discovery associated with it.
Tirey left his childhood home in Ohio, and moved to North Carolina in order to study Philosophy and to take advantage of its vibrant music scene. Even though the Midwest folk scene is strong, Wes’ decision to pursue his musical career further south has payed financial and artistic dividends. His musical inspirations and techniques span the whole of the East coast, from Dylan in the North to Guthrie in the South. His guitar style could be described as Appalachian and Piedmont or as he describes it himself, a ‘blue-collar’ approach. However, having said this, his lyrics are far less politically motivated and notion towards his experiences and surroundings. When asked about his inspirations, he writes: “The Midwest is gritty, bizarre and beautiful, the South is awe inspiring and where my heritage comes from.” It seems Wes has been on a voyage of self discovery, finding himself through music and philosophy, culminating in this E.P.
Studying Philosophy, Tirey’s lyrics are often coloured by Stoicism, (enduring hardship and pain without the display of feelings and without complaint). This is particularly true of the third track, Final Resting Place, where Wes describes an apocalypse “in these nihilistic times”. The other songs on the E.P follow similar structures, acting as candid narratives with little focus on emotion, more like observations along the lines of folk protest songs, evocative of Ludlow Massacre by Woody Guthrie. Even though Tirey’s songs can have a profound effect, the listener can draw as much or as little as they like from his music. Be it a relaxed listen, or an acute interpretation of his lyrics, the resulting outcome is very enjoyable.
The songs juxtapose the cultures and landscapes that inspired Tirey. The contrast of his Rust-belt roots to the north, twinned with the religious connotations of the Bible-belt to the South serves an extremely appealing and refreshing perspective to American folk music. The final song on the E.P, When Your Eyes See The Valley, is an awe-inspiring seven minute instrumental, with open tuning chord progressions luscious enough to make even the most experienced guitar player envious. It alleviates the pain and the suffering of the previous songs, appropriately ending the E.P with a tranquil cadence.
Review by: Jake Setterfield
I Stood Among Trees is available now as a digital album on bandcamp as a ‘name your price’ download or you can purchase a first edition CD!