Alec Lytle & Them Rounders
The End of Ours
3 out of 5 stars
As a new, generally unrecognized artist, it helps to release your debut with assistance from musicians who are widely considered the finest in their field. Such is the case with California folkie Alec Lytle who teams up with legendary producer Tony Berg (X, Aimee Mann, Squeeze, Nanci Griffith…and a few dozen more), engineer/mixer Bob Clearmountain (Bowie, Roxy Music, Rolling Stones…and a few dozen more), pedal/lap steel master Greg Leisz, and veteran drummer Matt Chamberlain….among others. The stellar cast at least guarantees the album sounds good, but without quality material that’s all it does.
Thankfully Lytle is a savvy songsmith whose introspective songs are worthy of the top shelf supporting cast. The material ranges from the languid, reflective, ethereal musings of “Train Long Gone” and the hushed, gentle waltz of “The Fiona You’ll Never Know” to the reflective, sweet bluegrass “Ordinary Day.” Lytle’s band gets a rare chance to open up on the ominous, thumping swamp of “Frozen Ground,” a propulsive sound there just isn’t enough of on this 45 minute set. Some tunes such as the winding “The River,” a poignant ballad about losing your way either in life and/or relationships, begins with a stripped down acoustic guitar and builds in intensity until it ends with fiery fiddle and lap steel solos.
The nine originals are enhanced by two covers that go a long way to showing Lytle’s influences. He radically rearranges the Talking Heads’ “This Must be the Place,” whittling it down to its folk core, gradually adding spare guitar, mandolin pedal steel and finally percussion to allow the song’s evocative, often obtuse lyrics to hit with an impact almost guaranteed to have you returning to the original. He wraps up the disc with an intensely personal version of “When I Go Deaf,” keeping Low’s opening sparse, intimate instrumentation while losing their closing, crashing guitar rumble. That heightens the impact of the somber words and the singer’s trembling delivery.
Lytle’s innocent, unblemished voice wraps around these melancholy, sometimes dark songs like gauze around a wound. The result is a debut whose immaculate sonics join with a talented cast and show Lytle to be a singer/songwriter worth watching regardless of who his backing band is.