Seabuckthorn: Turns
Lost Tribe Sound

Andy Cartwright's versatility is well-accounted for on this excellent full-length follow-up to his 2016 Seabuckthorn EP I Could See the Smoke. Yet while the collection does argue vehemently on behalf of his skill-set as a songwriter, arranger, and instrumentalist, it's not self-indulgent; instead, resources are called upon to serve the composition at hand, and to that end Cartwright, credited with resonator, guitars (six- and twelve-string), and drums (and joined on three songs by LST label-mate William Ryan Fritch on double bass), demonstrates an admirable degree of restraint in the artful craft exemplified by the album's ten songs.

Similar to Fritch's, Cartwright's material feels born from the earth, a natural and powerfully expressive music resplendent in its embrace of long-standing folk traditions. Undergirded by the primal rumble of percussion-driven rhythms, dense lattice-works of twelve-string guitars spiral like tumbleweeds through the haunted opener “Long Voyages Often Lose Themselves,” the material so pregnant with atmosphere one can almost hear coyotes howling in the distance. Amplifying the rustic, time-worn quality of Turns is Cartwright's resonator playing, which invests a setting such as “The Trail Already in My Mind” with a brooding character that's hard to shake.

While much of the album aligns itself with the solo guitar and American primitive genres, there's a pronounced classical dimension in play, too, which emerges in the hypnotic fingerpicking patterns that animate “Lanterns” and “Near Translucent,” as well as a number of other pieces. Whatever the differences from one track to the next, a somewhat Southern gothic-styled undercurrent runs throughout, the album at times feeling like a particularly dark and cryptic narrative by William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor rendered into musical form.

Given the contents of their most recent releases, Turns and Birkitshi - Eagle Hunters In A New World, Fritch and Cartwright would seem to be as natural a pair of touring partners as could be imagined; as an alternative scenario, one could easily picture the two fueling their creative energies into a full, album-length collaboration at some future date. As an indication of just how natural a project that would be, “Plateau Edge” collapses the stylistic difference between the two so completely the setting would sound as much at home on Fritch's latest release as Cartwright's.

March 2017