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Pearls Before Swine / Tom Rapp - The Use of Ashes CD (album) cover

THE USE OF ASHES

Pearls Before Swine / Tom Rapp

 

Prog Folk

4.21 | 31 ratings

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kenethlevine
Special Collaborator
Prog-Folk Team
4 stars I've been reading a book by a sassy fashionista who cues his entry into full reminiscence mode with the expression "Let's dial back". When approaching long past nascent progressive folk that one never had the privilege to hear in its initial run, one would do well to dial back for two reasons. First, cliches may be exploited that were not cliches in their day, so one should step softly into such critiques even while acknowledging the unfashionable traits. Second, one cannot always expect to be wowed by defiant prog just because exhibit A hails from that era. Lots else was going on at the time, and audacious fervour could take many forms, especially where folk influenced music was concerned. In so dialing back, one is left as open to an album's authenticity as if one was truly present on the original release date.

By all accounts, TOM RAPP's PEARLS BEFOR SWINE released several generally unnoticed works, the best of these being "The Use of Ashes". Listen a few times, and delicacy of voice and poetic muse will be manifest, as well as a world weariness that one can't manufacture in a studio. A less depressive NICK DRAKE might be an apt reference point. The largely acoustic guitar and string accompaniment is elegantly assuaged by keyboard arrangements and woodwinds, especially whiffs of harpsichord, and the melodies take a number in one's memory queue. "Rocket Man" is especially poignant in its recounting, a timeless melody and vulnerable lyrics that can reach anyone who has worried for a loved one and felt helpless at some of their life decisions. "The Old Man" incorporates English folk influences as successfully as the late JACK HARDY ever did, while "The Riegel" pairs SIMON AND GARFUNKEL's harmonies with a historical insight and profound respect a la KINGSTON TRIO. In contrast, "When the War Began" shuffles along without drawing in the listener, and, "God Save the Child" insists upon itself in its post-Dylanesque entreaties, although to my ears it sounds even more like a lost post-prime GUESS WHO hit.

"The Use of Ashes" is a simply lovely album of worldly American folk rock with psychedelic and progressive hues and among the most elegantly economical arrangements I have yet heard. If not for a few mediocre cuts, it would merit 5 stars. Highly recommended for the hearth.

kenethlevine | 4/5 |

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