For the past few years Cedarwell, comprised of singer/guitarist
Erik Neave and percussionist Joel Stokdy (with occasional
appearances by Aching Wings front man Zach Vinson)
have offered solid, stripped-down folk-rock akin to Johnny
Cash and Mason Jennings. Though small in number, the
two continue to bring their electrifying passion to stage. Such
charisma has fueled their constant touring over the past couple
years, gaining loyal followers everywhere from their hometown
of Sheboygan, Wisconsin to colleges across Michigan and in popular
venues throughout Boston, Massachusetts. Now on their full length
release Gamboge, Cedarwell's trademark minimalism is re-invented
with a fuller, edgier sound that brews together blues, hard rock,
and even a little punk. The result is a stellar, infectious album.
"Wake Up!" is, hands down, Gamboge's standout
track. It's a foot-stomping, confident rocker fueled by Neave's
soaring, earthy melodies, clever lyrics, and Stokdy's tight rhythms.
A good old fashioned road trip tune, with its narrator traveling
"from Carolina to California," searching "every
stone for some soft place" to lay his head. And the whole
time he's moving or resting, he's also "dreaming of her face"
and "spilling poems on a napkin to try and save some space."
"Wake Up!" is perfect from beginning to end and possibly
one of the year's best.
Another solid track is the somber, broken hearted "Wisconsin
Skies." As it begins, "I learned to fall in love under
Wisconsin skies/She knocked me on my feet and plucked out both
my eyes/Now I could never see anything but her face and that was
alright." What strengthens this song is its unique structure.
Instead of a basic verse-chorus-verse-chorus framework, the track
uses a repetitive lyric technique. Each verse paints a different
picture of Wisconsin skies, sometimes illustrating "clean
Wisconsin skies", other times "stale Wisconsin skies".
The result makes for a colorful, vivid depiction of how much love
(or its loss) changes how one sees their surroundings, positively
Though Cedarwell typically goes for a mellow folk sound, the
robust, power-chord driven "Lacerations" allows the
band to experiment with their style. Like "Wisconsin Skies,"
"Lacerations" creates vivid scenes that root the song
in an actual place, turning it into an experience. Neave's vocals
are strongest here, as he belts "button up your collar
babe because Boston is getting cold/ something like Sheboygan
wind when October unfolds/this time of year the leaves will
fall and fill your hands with gold/then turn into lacerations."
This song manifests Cedarwell's greatest strength: an ability
to blend the poetic with place. Their work is never too abstract,
but rather sets listeners in certain towns and cities, thus
making the songs realistic and beautiful. This is a rare talent
that countless songwriters have difficulty pulling off.
One of the most inventive tracks on Gamboge is the quirky
"Spider." Shifting from basic rock to upbeat jazz, "Spider"
shows off a more experimental change in Cedarwell's style. "I
will not dance in your parade, I will not sing" Neave proclaims
in one of the songs many unexpected shifts.
Cedarwell is certainly a band on the move. Not only will their
busy touring schedules certainly keep them moving, but this fantastic
album is sure to keep their audience expanding. And though their
previous EP's are solid efforts, Gamboge is a stellar full-length
debut, crafted with a songsmith's touch and a passion for authentic
rock n' roll.
1. Weirdest Places
3. Wake Up!
4. Wisconsin Skies
6. Pass By
7. I Don't Know
10. Cannot Stand The Waiting
11. Wait Until Tomorrow Comes
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!