It is pretty mind boggling when it comes time to sift through our mail, searching for albums to review. The sheer number of male singer songwriters is actually quite staggering, which almost caused Chris Bathgate's A Cork Tale Wake to get lost in the shuffle. It must have been the artwork of Susan Fawcett that caught my eye, again proving that album covers are still mighty important.
For starters, this is a damn good sounding album. Bathgate's vocals are full, the drums are robust, the strings are warm, all coming together perfectly for an impressive collection of tracks. He was able to weave some deep textures into the acoustic tracks throughout A Cork, never afraid to experiment with just a hint of distortion of the addition of a trumpet for extra color. And when he opts to delve in to a Neil Young-like rocker, you definitely take notice.
Bathgate eases us into his long player with "Serpentine," beginning with northing more than piano and doubled vocals. As the song wanders along, he adds in an unexpectedly interesting drumbeat and several layers of strings. This is the type of alt-country-indie-folk that I really enjoy. It is the twists and turns that are found throughout every moment on this somber eleven-track release that brings to mind Neutral Milk Hotel at times.
"The Last Parade On Ann St." is another one of those tracks that catches the listener off guard. It begins as a simple acoustic tune, keeping an intimate atmosphere until echoed electric guitars wash over the vocals. It is a powerful musical moment, something that Bathgate is quite good at. He has got that combination of excellent song writing, arranging and brilliant recording that works just right.
As for the Neutral Milk Hotel reference mentioned earlier, this is easily heard in the music on "Every Wall You Own." A locomotive beat, strings and a trumpet taking the lead melody, but with much more of a smooth country twang than heard on In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Toss in a little Wilco and Okkervil River for extra flavor and you have A Cork Tale Wake.
This is the type of album that is best listened to on your back porch, sipping on some good whiskey while watching the sunset. Get yourself a comfy lawn chair, pop on some headphones and enjoy this treat of an album.