The Looking is primarily a vehicle for Indiana-born singer-songwriter Todd Carter, aided and abetted by an array of guest musicians. Lead Me To The Water is his second album, following on from 2013’s Songs for a Traveller, a collection of songs from the heartland, covering the century from 1850 to 1950.
This time round, it’s original material, born of an immersion in the works of Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt and other country legends. While you may be hard-pressed to hear their ghosts, pedal steel looms large, Gerald Menke contributing to five of the eleven cuts, notably on the title track opener, an archetypal slice of 70s country rock. While the same comparison can be made for You And Me, listening to aching piano and steel ballad Where did you Go? and Waiting on You I’m more reminded of Bruce Hornsby. But then, by complete contrast, clanking murder ballad The Well, which features backing vocals from Norah Jones regular Sarah Hobson, comes with fuzzy distorted guitar and a snarly riff that more nods to earlier influences like Husker Du and The Circle Jerks. From which you’ll gather that while it may not stray far from the neighbourhood, it does play in a variety of backyards, sparking summer pop sensibilities on Not your Friend (“I want you back, don’t want to be friends”), while the reflective coming of age Summer of 76, Menke again in evidence, has the feel of classic Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters and Two Daughters suggests perhaps the shimmering heat haze of the solo Don Henley.
There’s different colours too on A Bone to Pick With You, a slow march tempo big building ballad that, with Jen Herman on viola arranged by co-producer and pianist Bill Finizio, has a show song sweep before the album ends on the acoustic strummed, gospel-tinged Burning Doves, Menke’s steel and Steve Elliot’s twangy guitar solo, closing on a final a capella note. It’s not an immediate hook of an album, but the more you listen to it, the more it makes you want to drink deep.
Lead me to Water is Out Now