Everywhere I Go
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It won’t take long for listeners to Cicada Rhythm’s sophomore release, and first for New West, to notice the influence of one of its co-producers, Oliver Wood.
Although he’s only credited with “additional production,” the Wood Brothers’ musical and vocal approach is a key element of these songs. Guitarist/singer Dave Kirslis also sounds so much like Wood, you may be checking the liner notes to see who is singing. But more importantly Wood and co-producer Kenneth Pattengale (The Milk Carton Kids) have bolstered the band’s sound without diluting the idiosyncratic, some might say quirky, nature of Cicada Rhythm’s distinctive songwriting.
Kirslis and co-founder/songwriter/singer/Juilliard trained double bassist Andrea DeMarcus (one of the few roots music women along with Amy LaVere to front a band with that instrument) push these 10 originals outside traditional song structures. Those familiar with the Wood Brothers will recognize a similar unorthodox sense to the foundations of tunes that incorporate jazz, blues, indie rock and country concepts without sounding like either of those genres. The duo’s rootsy underpinnings are the threads that bind these eclectic tracks, aided enormously by the pure, immediate and moving vocals of DeMarcus whose characteristic tone falls somewhere between LaVere and Billie Holiday.
These songs are frequently lyrically vague, yet the music generally reflects a playful vibe. That’s especially true in “Scared Straight,” as DeMarcus sings “I had a vision/ Why is there only one dimension/ I can focus on?” atop a lively pedal steel assisted melody that winds and spirals around a recurring bass riff. When the twosome combine their voices on frisky duets like “Bare Minimum” where the duo, who are also engaged, implore each other to keep the relationship fresh by giving more than the basics, the effect is particularly poignant.
There is a subtle Southern groove to Cicada Rhythm’s often airy, summery style. It’s there in the easy strumming groove and tree imagery of “Where the Dogwood Dies” and in the humid, swamp of “Dream Alone,” the latter featuring the peculiar lyrics “You are not a frugal man/ friends don’t leave with empty hands” aided by dissonant strings and Pattengale’s autoharp. The introductory “America’s Open Roads” is a natural single with its easy sing-along chorus, something the band doesn’t necessarily subscribe to throughout the rest of this intriguing, enjoyable and provocative set.
Kirslis is concerned on “Shake Up” that his muse doesn’t appear enough (“Sometimes you wonder where it goes/ will it return? No one knows”), but with material as intriguing and captivating as the songs on Everywhere I Go, the couple’s creative instincts are alive and well.