In "Rider," Buck takes on lead vocals, with a tasteful acoustic blues riff introducing a gravelly baritone with a lilt, "Hey now rider, do you know why you run?" It calls to mind the iconic "Know You Rider," with their own version of the cowboy experience, evoking the wide-open expanse of the West, the too-bright sun and the wind that bites at the tips of the ears. There is the smell of the horse underneath, its bulk and power, its beating heart.
And then there is "When I Was on Horseback," an Old English folk song that might have been pulled from the pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
Team that with the haunting whispers of "Ghost," a Shanti solo piece with a banjo that rises from the fog, orderly at first and then losing form and dissipating. Joined by a harmonium, her delivery — with lyrics echoing that kind of faerie place that isn't all flower petals and rainbows at all — might remind you of PJ Harvey's "little fish, swimming in the water."
Gearheads might take some pleasure, too, in the fact they help create this timeless aesthetic with the help of an EBow, which bows guitar strings with an energy field (introduced in 1978; first customer was Jerry Garcia; probably last seen locally at the State Theatre being used by Built to Spill's Jim Roth). On "Daughters of Maine," Buck pairs it with Greg Boardman's bowed bass (I checked the liner notes; it's not a cello, like it was on that Rural Ghosts song where I got it wrong) and it knifes through the crispness of the fingerstyle acoustic guitar in the kind of solo I'm not sure is ever completely repeatable.
"Cast out your hands," Shanti implores repeatedly into the finish. Her last breath of sibilance at the end is a flash of light.
Cast out your cares and let this album wash over you. Don't plan on having anything else to do. ^
FORTRESS OF THE SUN | Released by Arborea | on ESP-Disk' | April 30 | pre-release show at Guthrie's, in Auburn | April 19 | arboreamusic.blogspot.com
FINDING GREAT ACCLAIM With a tour calendar like a travel magazine, Arborea's Buck and Shanti Curran are transmitting their timeless aesthetic worldwide.