Applewood Road Hearkens to Simpler Time; Folk with Rustic Americana Aroma

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Applewood Road Dennis Russo Critical Blast

Applewood Road is not only the name of the Album in review, it is also the name of the band--not so much a “band” but more of a trio of young musicians with a penchant for creating music that harkens back to a simpler, less “electric” time. The trio consists of Emily Barker, Amber Rubarth, and Amy Speace.

The three women met for the first time in 2014 in an East Nashville Tennessee café. By the next morning, they had finished writing their first song, Applewood Road.

Six months later, they got back together to write and record “Applewood Road.”

Applewood Road’s music is distinctly Americana with a “folksy” feel to it. It is not at all what I would call country music by today’s (or even yesterday’s) standards. The songs on the album remind me of the music that country music was derived from.

What I find very cool about this album is that, befitting the kind of music, it was recorded using a single microphone with a limited number of accompaniments on 2-track tape at an all-analog recording studio called Welcome To 1979.

I am reviewing this album on CD, but it is also available on vinyl and I can’t help to think that as good as it sounds on CD, it must be stunning on LP. It just makes so much sense to record this kind of music in analog. This music is "analog in nature," if you get my meaning.

From the first song, as the CD played, I got this feeling that any of the songs on this disc could have been used in the soundtrack to “Oh Brother Where Art Thou?” I also found a similarity to Alison Krause in the style of singing and composition. All of these are good things in my book.

None of the songs are long--mostly 2-3 minutes in length, the longest being Home Fires at 4:44 in length, with My Love Grows a mere 1:36 long. Some people might not like songs that are that short in length, but that time frame completely fits the style of these songs. I would say "Think quality, not quantity."

There are some who may say that is not enough time to tell a story, but to that I say “hogwash.” It is very easy to tell a story and play a great song in that short of time if--with an emphasis on if--you’ve got a talent for songwriting and are a good musician, which all three of the ladies in this trio are.

Just listen to how well-crafted To the Stars is written. The song tells a story of a person’s life in a way that I have not heard before, and at 3:10 they bring the story full circle and accompany it with a very nice musical arrangement.

I really like the way this album was recorded. The single mic brings and “organic-ness” to the music that is often lost today in all the over-mixing and over-dubbing that is going on. The upright bass on Applewood Road has such a resonance to it that you can almost see the strings vibrate as they are being lucked. By contrast, the banjo strings have a steeliness to them that, when they are plucked, have that quick attack and decay that brings me closer to being in the room with them.

Voices are rendered beautifully, and when all three are singing around the one mic you hear them as one and yet can easily discern each individual voice, just like in a live venue.

This is a fine album to listen to. I wouldn’t say that the songs stick in my head yet, but rather I’ll think about them when I’m playing music and say, “I want to listen to To The Stars now.” It is not background music in any way; this is music for people that make listening to music a dedicated act.

Can you play it in the car? Sure. While your cleaning? Yes. But you get the whole taste/flavor of the songs and the music if you sit and listen and enjoy Applewood Road performing for you.

I was so afraid this was going to be just another country music record, and am so pleasantly surprised that while being “less” it is so much more. I hope they continue to make music and stay true to themselves. I’d hate to see them fall into the “country music” American Idol trap--music to listen to while you’re doing something else. This is music that brings me back to a simpler time, when I simply want to listen to music.

Songs:

  1. Applewood Road

  2. To The Stars

  3. Old Time Country Song

  4. Home Fires

  5. Honey Won’t You

  6. Give Me Love

  7. Sad Little Tune

  8. Lovin’ Eyes

  9. Josephine

  10. I’m Not Afraid Anymore
  11. Bring The Car Around

  12. Row Boat

  13. My Love Grows

Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0