Arbouretum: Let It All In (Thrill Jockey)

US folk / alt. rock stalwarts notch up another solid addition to their storied catalogue

Released Mar 20th, 2020 via Thrill Jockey / By Norman Miller
Arbouretum: Let It All In (Thrill Jockey) I make this the tenth album since Baltimore-based outfit Arbouretum first blessed us with their presence back in 2002, and it finds them still ploughing new furrows across a musical field planted with seeds of English folk, country blues, Americana and psychedelia.

The quartet - guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann, bassist Corey Allender, drummer Brian Carey and keyboard player Matthew Pierce– play with a mix of intimacy and intricacy you'd expect after nearly 20 years together on an album whose best tracks have a freewheeling expansiveness, moving through the gears at around six or seven minutes each – or in the case of the title track, nearly 12 minutes.

Heumann has always been an engaging vocalist, sometimes deceptively simple in a delivery that can echo the catchy mournfulness of Will Oldham, Bonnie Prince Billy or Bill Callahan. He's in fine form here, nowhere more than on the outstanding Headwaters II, delivering richly varied vocals – mournful and declamatory by turn – over bass and drum skitter.

How Deep It Goes is a glorious opener, its lovely slow drive a thing of wistful harmonic beauty livened by delicate guitar adornments and an angular trippy guitar finale. There's a hint of Fairport Convention and Pentangle in the psych-tinged folk-rock picking of A Prism In Reverse and the jangly guitar of the deceptively throwaway Buffeted By Wind where Heumann quietly worries away at deep stuff (“I have not been to sleep for years”).

But it's the title track that truly takes the breath away - a magnificent epic made for the mosh and rock immortality, its thrilling surge relentlessly building to peak after peak with a polished punky drive adorned by superb keyboard and guitar breakouts at various points.

The country balm of the closing High Water Song, riding along on Hans Chew's honky-tonk guest piano provides a welcome come down. Yes, there are a couple of dud moments – but what's good here is very good in a discography of a band I hope play on for many years to come. 8/10