Arrgghhhh the noise. The violent babble of modernity. The digital burr. The screaming chaos of the world setting itself on fire. The squawking spew of celebrity. The chattering whiffle and whibble of political discourse. Atrocities at every turn. Fear rising. Headlines screaming. Governments falling. Confusion reigns. Kardashians pout. Putin invades. Hopkins hates. Brand babbles. The throbbing vein on the side of my temple finally explodes. Thank Beelzebub for the soothing sounds of Americana duo The Lowest Pair to dampen the thronging tinnitus and offer some quiet, old timey introspection.
Whilst everything else rages in a manic rush hour tizzy, Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee appear to be drifting lazily downstream on a handmade, tumbledown raft. The two rambling souls met on the US bluegrass circuit and traded beguiling harmonies and twanging banjo licks on debut album 36 Cents (2014), but it’s now on follow-up The Sacred Heart Sessions that the magic really starts to weave.
Dreamy lullaby Ruben’s Fortune instantly transports to simpler times and greener climbs, de-stilling Joanna Newson’s mystical folk tales with earthy, homespun country laments, whilst tracks like Rosie and Fourth Time A Charm point further towards Carter Family traditions. Released through Conor Oberst’s New York label Team Love Records, suspicions are raised that the duo might be afflicted by hipster, nu-folk associations, but thankfully there’s none of that nonsense. This is a loyal celebration of Americana roots, understated, wistful and full of heart worn, vintage yarns.
Minnesota, Mend Me stands out as a soaring, spit and sawdust paean that pitches Springsteen’s blue collar dreams into a front-porch, Iron Range melodrama, and throughout there’s an authentic, timeless feel to the songs. Their duelling harmonies is another key factor, Winter’s warm, beaming tones earning comparisons to Iris DeMent, whilst Lee’s more weary, doughty delivery anchors the exchanges. It’s a killer combination that evokes images of idyllic log cabins in lonesome backwoods, mountain ranges, great lakes and rural serenity. If they ever make a sequel to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Lowest Pair are a shoe-in for the soundtrack.
There’s more watching the world go by on Smile And Nod and hard banjo picking on Hogtied, before the eerie, doomed ballad Scavenger Hunt waves a sunken goodbye. It’s a been a lovely little trip into the daydreams of Winter and Lee and a much needed chance to breathe in some gorgeous, rootsy gentility, but another world awaits and I haven’t checked Twitter in at least twenty minutes. Bet Katie Hopkins has said something really juicy in that time…