Though the most obvious comparison is The Avett Brothers, at its core, The Lumineers’ self-titled debut reminds me much more of the first Whiskeytown record: It’s a pure, raw record, played like the artists were in a rush, but they’re fresh off the road with songs they could perform in their sleep. Take a look at the video for “Ho Hey”:
The whole record, even at its most lush, sounds like it could have been recorded at a concert just like that. There’s very little in the way of overdubs, little evidence of studio trickery except when they needed a few dozen more people to shout along with the hos and the heys.
The group’s strengths are many, starting with guitarist/pianist/songwriter Wesley Schultz’s voice. Very slightly nasal, strong when he needs it to be but with the slight quaver and vulnerabilty of Ryan Adams at his quietest. Neyla Pekarek provides the piano and violin for the group, adding violin and more piano. Jerimiah Fraites’s percussion is never intrusive, which is one of the main challenges of fitting a drum kit into an Americana/bluegrass framework. (Some bands, like Mumford and Sons, manage this by using only a bass drum; others make no concessions and create a mess.) Schultz’s lyrics range from easygoing storytelling on faster material like “Classy Girls” to deeply personal on the slower songs like “Deep Sea,” which references the band’s journey from New York to Colorado.
And here’s the leadoff track, which shows their talent for layering even with a small number of instruments:
The Denver, CO band is currently on tour, but they garnered a lot of attention at SXSW so some dates are sold out already. Catch them live if you can—otherwise, pick up the album. It’s going to be essential listening for Americana and folk rock lovers.
—Jon Patton (Baltimore, MD)