Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Lowest Pair - The Sacred Heart Sessions, album review

Gibberish That Breeds Gibberish

The Lowest Pair take their name from a John Hartford lyric which is a playful corruption of The Lord’s Prayer, along with other such from his album Mark Twang [getting the drift?], but their banjo-led Americana and dual vocal is no parody. The twang here is in the country leanings, and the voice of Kendl Winter which is, I’m sure, an authentic lilt from her Arkansas roots. I will return to this.

This type of male/female duo roots music is an increasingly popular genre, and this album The Sacred Heart Sessions is a fine enough example. I like opener Ruben’s Fortune where other half Palmer T Lee’s vocalisation of ‘Ruben’ enters the song in the inimitable tone of a freight train – itself playful, but here not as some clever linguistic gest. Second Howl is again an effective duet, the banjo lead a strong one, and the shared vocal perfectly pitched.

Third Rosie, however, introduces that vocal bugbear that so vexes me: a slurred affectation of sound that I cannot understand as a fashion, and it does not serve Winter well at all. Not at all. I find it quite obnoxious.

Fourth, suitably if overstatedly titled Fourth’s a Charmer, retrieves the aural appreciation somewhat, with Lee taking lead on an upbeat stomp of sorts, the vocal affectations here sung for fun rather than an assumed emotive impact. And the album continues at this mixed if genre-tight range.

And this wasn’t even my main reason for writing. When researching the band name and the Hartford link, it reminded me of my own childhood corruption of The Lord’s Prayer, an anecdote I have told before, though not here. When I was a very young boy my father would lead the family each night in a collective rendition of The Lord’s Prayer, a familial gathering reflecting tradition rather than any meaningful act of worship. It never occurred to me at the time, and no one drew this to my attention then – the routine usurping any sense of commitment or meaningfulness, though I suspect at that age I personally harboured that classic sense of fear which nurtures belief – and it was some years later that I realised part of my rendition was gibberish, the foshadye before I wake not some biblical semantics based on an ancient language, but the mishearing and regurgitation of that gibberish for what should have been if I should die….

Meaninglessness fostering meaninglessness. I accept Hartford made this a more comic kind of gibberish.

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