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The Black Twig Pickers – Rough Carpenters

Thrill Jockey

The Black Twig Pickers - Rough CarpentersI’d waited for an opportunity to listen to this album where I’d have some uninterrupted space and so the epic Megabus journey that started at 03:00 in the morning was the perfect place. I got on the bus, walked to the top of the stairs, plonked my self down at the back and was greeted by a wonderful centred perspective view of empty bus seats and pressed play.

The album kicks off with a slow reedy rasping solo violin tune masterfully laid down by Mike Gangloff, who also features in the folk drone project Pelt alongside fellow Twig Picker Nathan Bowles. Whereas Pelt seem to be dealing with the wide-open fuzzy land of collective-conscious folk forms, The Black Twig Pickers draw from a more local environment: the Appalachian Mountains. Their music suggests that they live in some remote homestead where the ghosts of their forefathers are still active and passing down their folk traditions. It’s a beautiful thing to behold: a music that can genuinely connect to a place.

After the full band kicks in and they reach maximum velocity, they produce a twirling kaleidoscope of interlocking sound so vibrant and vivid it sent my sleep-deprived brain into overdrive. As the reflection of the car lights flew around the bus windows, I thought I was in some kind if psychedelic music video. While I watched the misty valleys of England drift by on my elevated throne I figured I’d timed my listen perfectly. Sleep deprivation is my new favoured high. Music being an old favourite, this was the perfect combination. At one point I must have occidentally pressed repeat on the track “The Poplar Pole,” which whirled and whirled around in my head with its relentless drive. The addition of another bower (Sally Anne Morgan) really accentuates the violins propulsive push.

This is foot-stomping mission music, perfect for the open road, which they are often on. I was lucky enough to meet them on it when they toured the UK back in September 2010. I learned that on their days off, between booked shows, they could be found busking the streets delivering their sonic power to the people. Being traditional music, they have no need for a PA and as they’ll happily be playing music they might as well do it in front of a paying audience.

These guys (and gal) are carpenters of sound working away at their home-made sonic furniture that might contain imperfections, but like all music that is any good or effective the imperfections only make it more endearing. Go get this album and fall into the spirals of Appalachian folk genius – or better still, go see them live.

-Harry Wheeler-

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