Vanguard Records, 2004
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/12/2004
Wow. Just...you know...wow.
Now, I realize that you all normally expect better and more elegant hyperbole from yours truly when I hit something I like. But the debut Vanguard Records CD from Carbon Leaf, Indian Summer, is about what you'd expect from a band with a rep like theirs. Simply put, it's damn great.
About that rep -- how many unsigned bands: 1) Appear at the American Music Awards; 2) Open for John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Great Big Sea, Counting Crows, and 3) win the first Coca-Cola New Music Award?
Sound impressive? Damn straight it is; that or it's the biggest piece of hype since Orson Welles invaded New Jersey. I'm happy to say it isn't hype, folks. Indian Summer is one of the most powerful, brilliant, and elegant albums of roots-tinged rock I've ever heard.
The production and engineering on Indian Summer, courtesy of John Morand and former Camper Van Beethoven front man David Lowery, is excellent. Carbon Leaf's sound depends strongly on stringed instruments, especially mandolin and acoustic guitar, and the resolution on the CD is crystal clear and heartbreakingly pure. The musicianship and performance on the CD is excellent as well; how many bands would take on a 6/8 guitar intro that sounds for all the world like a bagpipe? (Check out "This Is My Song" for that, a rip-roaring tear through electric guitar fun). Add in intense songwriting that left me breathless at points and what you have is a strong contender for my personal CD Of The Year.
There isn't a bad song on Indian Summer, but this humble reviewer will bring a couple to your attention. "Paloma" is simply incredible, its harmonies haunting and driving; "What About Everything?" is a Zen koan in four minutes of pop music; "Let Your Troubles Roll By" is a rollicking traipse through optimism; and the closing track, "The Sea," is a bluesy, shimmering word picture. Brilliant, I tell you. Brilliant.
Carbon Leaf's Indian Summer has been a long time coming; this is a band who didn't sign a record deal until they were damn good and ready to. Enjoy the warmth, enjoy the summer; this is definitely worth grabbing now.