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    Monday, July 28, 2008

    There ain't no life for me on land


    Photo by Laura Thorne

    The file you find below shouldn't be an MP3. No, if the costs weren't prohibitive, I'd send each and every one of you Ezra Carey's "Riverbed" on dusty, timeworn vinyl. That seems like the ideal way to appreciate a song that sounds so beautifully behind the times. It sounds like some forgotten treasure you'd salvage from your parents' record collection, excavated from an attic crate. And while the digital information insists it's from 2008, all I hear are '60s bonfires and communal nightswimming, dank weed clouds and pawnshop guitars. I see a record sleeve jaundiced with age, and a track listing (divided on two sides) eroding into palimpsets.

    That's not to say that "Riverbed" is a relic. Even as it mines a distant decade, it feels completely vital today. Along with peers like William Elliott Whitmore and Oakley Hall, Ezra Carey makes a strong case that folk music still has plenty of kick left in it. And I'm not talking about avant-folk or folk-punk or anti-folk, but the traditional, least fashionable strand based around sensitive voices and quiet strumming. It's the kind of music that doesn't fit into our noisy, adrenalized culture anymore, which is exactly why it's such a necessary detour.

    Of course, there's also the plain fact that "Riverbed" is a magical song. In large part, that's due to the vocal pairing of Ezra Carey and Mallory Posedel. The two complement each other terrifically, his earthbound twang giving texture to her dreamy echoes. It recalls Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Dawn McCarthy on The Letting Go, but somehow feels even prettier here. There are also the smartly spare lyrics, suggesting either great escape or deep despair. "The river is rising, rising/ Above my chin, above my chin/ and I open my mouth and let it in," the duo spellbindingly sings. "Yes, the river is rising, rising/ Above my head, above my head/ And she lays me down... upon her bed." In Ezra Carey's hands, that sounds like such a profoundly graceful option, a welcome refuge from the world these days.

    * MP3: "Riverbed" - Ezra Carey from The Fire Keeps Us Warm [Buy it]
    * MySpace: Ezra Carey

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