Written By:

article by: Michael Canter

16 May 2012

CD Review - Sometime Around by Palmer

“Andy Palmer, a former public defender in Brooklyn and river-raft guide in Colorado, seems to bring his impressive life experience to bear on Sometime Around, a release that boasts hints of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Mississippi John Hurt. Thanks to Palmer’s heartfelt vocal style and explosive acoustic guitar playing, the tracks have a timeless sound that gives the entire record an epic feel.”
~Best Of Westward 2011

Release Date: 23-September-2011
Genre: Alternative / Folk Rock / Jam
Publisher: [c] 2011 Andrew Palmer
Label: Unsigned/Unaffiliated
Time: 35m 46s
Review Date: 17-May-2012
Format: CD
Jivewired Digital Press Kit:  Not currently a member of Jivewired.com

Get it at:
Bandcamp | iTunes | CD Baby

Track Listing:

01. Grrr 4:58
02. I Died Today 3:43
03. Lawless 4:18
04. Take It Down 5:07
05. .. ... .... 0:33
06. When History's Done 4:31
07. Cry Ethan 5:52
08. Cripplegate 2:45
09. Won't Happen Again 3:59


The Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Mississippi John Hurt comparisons are spot on, at least vocally, and that is evident from the get go.  On Sometime Around, Andy Palmer paints a beautifully gritty portrait of folk and blues that is a wonderful listen. Boisterous without being loud and strong without being forced, Palmer grinds through a thunderous thirty-five minutes of impassioned and eclectic lovestuff that melds the best vibes of funk, blues and electric jams and then colors them with jazz and world-music influences.  If Dave Matthews collided head on into Leonard Cohen, this album would be the result, and if that isn't descriptive enough, just give it a listen and you will understand exactly what I am talking about.

In a nutshell, this is no awkwardly folksy album. Sure there's your obligatory folk nuances - a violin here, acoustic jazz guitar there - but by and large Palmer provides a big sound that leans heavily on the funkier side of folk music.  Most of the songs hit that big electrical resonator and are surrounded by accelerated rhythms and driven bass lines.  Sure the melodic highs are offset by an occasional slower tempo or two.  But the highs are absolutely dizzying.

Take the lethal bass line on Cripplegate for instance.  It's the driving force of the song and it never lets up.  Cripplegate is the repeat player here, all big bass and funk euphoria with a backline that's unexpected each time you listen.  A hellishly hot guitar transitions the bridge to a stop-on-the-dime conclusion and to be honest, the entire arrangement nearly renders the lyrics insignificant.  By definition, that's damn good jam band music.

Lawless is the hardest rocking song on Sometime Around.  Steeped in what could be considered a classic rock arrangement, Lawless offers a harder edge than the rest of the record.   It's simple in structure -  just your basic soaring guitar supported by a no frills bass and steady percussion with little depth and layering.  However, it revels in it's genuine honesty as a rocker.  Lead guitar is emphasized and Palmer showcases tremendous chops and white hot licks.  The common denominator between Cripplegate and Lawless is that the vocals take a back seat to the instrumentation and arrangement.  The backing vocals, gospel tinged R&B in flavor and substance, are sublime.

On Grrr, Palmer's  lyrics and amped up vocals scream to the forefront.  This is the strongest effort on the album vocally and validates the Cohen/Waits/Hurt analogies.  Lovelorn, complex, self-reflective and heartfelt, this is signature Andy Palmer.  Grrr is a series of fiery mini-explosions that alternately smolder and ignite, developing and recapitulating into an almost spiritual coda. It's a great song that almost feels like a baptism or confession.  The added violin is the coup de grĂ¢ce and is absolutely killer.

Similarly, I Died Today showcases Palmer's weathered vocals, but the arrangement is closer to the jam band sound that works best on this disc.  The violin/acoustic guitar interplay is genuinely fiery and Palmer manages to stay just a step above it vocally.  It's a song that is ever-reaching for it's crescendo, striving for something monumental and majestic with every key change.  As a listener you wait for the neutral drop and the punch of the accelerator which never comes,  but the big tease actually makes the song work magnificently.  I Died Today is, hands down, the keeper single on this release.

The flamenco feel of Cry Ethan is an odd change of pace.  Though it's not one of the stronger songs on Sometime Around, it nonetheless offers a contrarian insight musically to what Andy Palmer brings to the table.  Flamenco is oh so close to classical guitar, and Palmer positively nails it.  Still, the song struggles to fit thematically with the album, so it may feel unexpected and intrusive.  I may have closed the album with this song instead to avoid the interrupted feel.  However, Won't Happen Again is an almost perfect closer and one of the stronger songs on this LP, so I'll just designate Cry Ethan as somewhat of a tough fit and leave it at that.

The slower songs on the disc do tend to weigh the entire package down a little more than I'd like as well, but I should point out that When History's Done is absolutely epic lyrically.  It's clearly the heaviest song on the disc, almost a Deadwood Waltz in identity, and Palmer reaches his high register as a point of pain reference and wretched despair.  It's brooding, and subtly angry in an I-told-you-so perspective, almost Bob Dylan-esque in it's poetry.

Sometime Around is an effectively ethereal album. Andy Palmer is an amazing talent and his honest and raw vocals serve to superbly compliment the LP's wonderful arrangements.  Palmer's ability to lay his thoughts down so simply exposes at times the over-complicated processes with which many songwriters go to, at great lengths no less, just to attempt to sound different and original.  That simple and effortless ability renders this album mostly brilliant in scope and stature, and though certainly not flawless, Sometime Around is genuinely very, very good.

About Andy Palmer:

Erstwhile Brooklyn public defender, songwriter Andy Palmer leads Grub Street Writer. Three years of living and working in the trenches of Brooklyn’s underbelly, clearly provide fodder for his raw lyrical material and boom/clank of a sound.

In his mid-twenties, Palmer fronted Mumbling Douglas, a jam band out of Boulder, Colorado, headlining The Fox and Boulder Theaters, among others. Doug enjoyed some local success and was quickly recognized as an up-and-coming band with genuine talent and real potential.

When Doug disbanded Palmer left Boulder, lured further into the Colorado Rockies and to the adventure of whitewater raft guiding. For the three years spent in the mountains, often living in a tent, Palmer’s performing was limited largely to campfire soirees, entertaining and writing songs for a great group of new friends. Eventually, society beckoned once more and he returned to Boulder for a brief time. Boulder, DC, Boston to Brooklyn.

Palmer was adopted at a young age and raised in the rural northeast on a small family farm. He has spent half a year in near solitude in a yurt during a Maine winter, lived on and volunteered at a Buddhist meditation retreat for months of silent meditation. He’s a professionally trained massage therapist, river raft guide, and a licensed attorney. Palmer’s lyrical sensibility leans towards the darker side of the human spirit, while maintaining a hopeful element that keeps it from jumping off the cliff.

No comments: