Thursday, December 19, 2013

Carbon Leaf -- Constellation Prize

I've always felt bad that I haven't been a better fan of Carbon Leaf. I their double live album, 5 Alive!, has been a faithful companion for many years now. But I've never made it out to their shows, nor have I committed myself to any of their other albums.

So I was really excited (and honored) when I was invited to review their latest album, Constellation Prize. Because I have the musical taste of a 35-year-old, my friends wanted to know what the big deal about Carbon Leaf was. I said something along the lines of their being a stoner folk band that hung out with Dave Matthews, but now I can give them a real answer: just listen to the album and find out.

For those not in the know, Carbon Leaf excels in intertwining Celtic, Appalachia, and country music. They're a bit of a jam band, but they get away with it because of their talent. Corny as it sounds, there's a bass solo on 5 Alive! that eventually morphs into "Ode to Joy" that brings me to tears every time.

Constellation Prize is a little heavier on the country, but not much seems to have changed in the ten years since 5 Alive! However, for better or worse, my conception of the band is mostly informed by that album. I'm still getting used to some of the poppier elements in the first few songs, but it made me realize something: all of the hipster folk bands that are making it big these days wish they were Carbon Leaf.

See, the whistling and handclaps and group shouting by other bands is fragile and wispy, there's no other way to put it. It's like these guys are afraid or embarrassed to put their feelings out there.  

But Carbon Leaf has never shied away from beauty. "All Of My Love" on this album is what Carbon Leaf does best: set beautiful poetry to amazing music, and letting the two dance around each other. The whistling and handclaps accentuate the songs' power, not struggle to bolster it.

TL;DR -- If you already love Carbon Leaf, you won't be disappointed. If you haven't heard them before, here's as good a place to start as any.


All Of My Love

Tombstone vs. Ashes

Carbon Leaf -- Official, Facebook, Store

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