Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stubborn Fool (music)

Stubborn Fool - Brother Oliver - Americana - October 16, 2014

Track Listing

  1. A Change of Scenery
  2. Coffee and a Cigarette
  3. Can You Feel the Dissonance?
  4. Stubborn Fool (Album Version)
  5. Headwater
  6. What Will Be Will Be
  7. Burn It Down to the Ground
  8. Interlude
  9. This Creature Inside Me
  10. Hey Hey Look Around
  11. Old Soul
  12. Let That Old River Run

My Review

It doesn’t take fame and record-breaking sales to produce good music, and Brother Oliver is proof of this. Having only recently arrived on the Americana scene, duo artists Andrew and Stephen Oliver have gained a lot of attention with their debut LP, Stubborn Fool.

Hailing from Michigan, they stir the air with rooted vocals/instruments and potent themes. Andrew’s ephemeral voice pairs well with his intentional acoustic harmonies. Sometimes mixing in pointed brass, minimal percussion, or other textured instruments, they manage to give each song its own voice. At times, Andrew layers his voice over, illustrating a dichotomy within himself: the theme behind this album.

Stubborn Fool quite honestly delves into his (and our) conflict with sin nature. According to the artist: “The weasel on the cover symbolizes the flesh, the inclination in us all to hate and fear.” This candid exploration thankfully has a course, and is balanced well, for the most part, over the course of the album.

There are four chapters, each preceded by an instrumental diorama. “A Change of Scenery” opens the first of these, which identifies the conflict between us and our sin nature. “Coffee and a Cigarette,” the first vocal track, serves as a fit prologue to this exploration. “Can You Feel the Dissonance?” jumps right in to the dichotomous theme, and involves the listener by asking the uncomfortable title question. “One seeks for answers in a deep and dark abyss. One takes his chances on a calculated risk. Can you feel the dissonance?” “Stubborn Fool (Album Version)” takes a personal turn, referencing resulting actions rather than internal conflicts alone. It makes sense that this track should take focus in the album. “This old man’s a stubborn fool...there’s a little bit of him in me and me in him, I cannot hide it.”

The second chapter, heralded by “Headwater,” attempts to reach the root of the problem, in order to resist the flesh. “What Will Be Will Be” begins as a plea (“God please speak to me. I’m having trouble listening.”) and finishes as an intriguing altercation between reassurance and self-pity. Now, I’ll admit that “Burn it Down to the Ground” is still making me wonder about what it’s saying. At this point, I believe he comes to terms with his flesh and takes up the fight against it. It could be that I’m daft, but I like music that makes me think long after it plays. This album definitely qualifies. Irregardless, this track has meaningful setting and actions, which I appreciate.

The third chapter begins in the odder, light-hearted instrumental piece “Interlude”. It is placed well, giving a moment to reflect and relax before moving on with the story. However, the following tracks muddy up the division of the story. In “This Creature Inside Me,” he has definitely resisted, and recognizes his sin nature as needing to be separate. “I just wish that this creature inside me, would stay at a distance.” This would have been better placed in the previous chapter, leaving only three chapters. The next track takes on a different voice, and this is where the third chapter ought to begin. “Hey Hey Look Around” speaks directly to the audience. “Free your mind from the space that you take up. We’re in love with ourselves in need of a break up.” “Old Soul” is a moody instrumental piece that fits right in the middle without needing to announce a chapter. It precedes the end, which is quite fitting. The finale has become my favorite, because of the subject material. “Let That Old River Run” is about grace. If you take anything away from this album, this song is the key to it. The whole story leads to this conclusion, and it is a delight. “Let go of what you've done and let that old river run.”

My Rating: 4 stars