Friday, February 14, 2014

The Evergreen Trio – Lift Up Your Voice (2001)

So after listening to The Evergreen Trio’s Lift Up Your Voice about six or seven consecutive times at work this past week, a really disturbing calm settled over me. I found myself at work, daydreaming about driving out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, and the only sounds around me would be the sound of Lift Up Your Voice playing in my car. Once I got to the cabin, I'd walk inside, put this EP on repeat, and curl up in a ball and cry by myself for days. Once again, I'm wrought to bring up the age-old question, "Why is it that the most stripped-down performances always seem to garner the most emotional responses?" The concept behind this CD is so amazingly simple that a monkey could have pulled it off, provided, that is, that the monkey could play an acoustic guitar. Over the course of winter 2000-2001, Joe Reina stepped out onto a cold back porch with an acoustic guitar a few times. Nick Alberts was there with a tape recorder, and after a small delay for tape transfers, seven extraordinarily atmospheric and bare-bones tracks were released as Lift Up Your Voice.
Headphone listening was required at least once before I could claim to even partially "know" this disc, as the back porch atmosphere plays into the mix with the subtle sounds of the wind and the occasional vehicle passing on a nearby road. The whole thing sounds so terribly honest, like Reina was just walking outside with his guitar and exposing everything about himself to the cold air, daring nature or anything else to challenge his feelings.
This sense shines through brightest during the second and third tracks on the disc. "My Token Boy" combines a delicate two string guitar cadence with Reina's restrained voice for a dazzling effect. The highlight here has to be Reina's practically tear-jearking Greg Dulli-esque "Ooooooooo’s" before the song ends on a more traditional strummed-chords note. "Bernadette" follows with an almost bluesy lick that practically carries Reina's faltering voice. The track is most powerful when Reina’s voice seems to soar on an unseen strength before almost cracking and breaking down only seconds later.
Lift Up Your Voice may have been recorded in the dead of winter, and the mix here is (intentionally) thin (even for a simple guitar-and-voice recording), but this EP still carries a lot of warmth that can be found under the right listening conditions. I figure this disc will be great for my next big self-reflective phase, but it would work just as well as a quiet, lulling soundtrack for this winter's long, cold snowy nights. Recommended.
Delusions Of Adequacy

"Recorded on a back porch in early 2001, 'Lift Up Your Voice", which is the Evergreen Trio's second full length, is stripped down to just a voice and acoustic guitar. These seven songs bring to mind a time when songs were stories, sung and passed along through the times. With this essentially being a field recording, you get a sense of time and space, hearing the sounds of crickets and even trucks passing by on the highway. All of these circumstances lead to a barren and personal record that is new, yet hauntingly familiar."
The paragraph above, along with the fledgling label's address and a photo of a rather grizzly-looking young man, composes the entirety of this CD's promotional materials. A glance at the sparse packaging yields little additional information other than the name of the grizzly young man in question, Joe Reina. The music contained is similarly sparse--a few strummed chords and a distant voice gently crooning about something that might actually be meaningful if we could hear it over the tape hiss.
The Evergreen Trio takes the notion of "less is more" to the extreme, and as an unfortunate result, some otherwise beautiful melodies are lost under a thick cloud of "lo-fi" artistic posturing, and an even thicker cloud of irritating tape hiss. Mr. Reina would be best advised to leave the minimalist meandering to more capable musicians, and try giving his promising songs the development and production they so desperately need.
D. Pennepali

The Evergreen Trio – Lift Up Your Voice (2001) 224kbps

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