The second collaboration between singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault and poet Lisa Olstein is more musically upbeat than their self-titled 2011 release. The band returns with its original lineup of Billy Conway (drums), Jeremy Moses Curtis (bass), David Goodrich (guitar, piano) and Alex McCollough (pedal steel), though their music is more forceful and electric than the contemplative folk-blues of their first outing. Foucault rises to the occasion with soulful and impassioned vocals, but his easily imbibed melodies and the band’s rootsy playing can find itself at odds with the impressionism of Olstein’s lyrics. “Necessary Monsters,” for example, rolls along on the drums’ shuffle and terrific bursts of blues guitar, but if the lyrics have a sad story to tell, they’re not giving it up easily.
Closer to the surface are the anguished loss of “Careless Flame” and resignation of “Sleepers Wake,” and the band cranks up some rock ‘n’ roll to accompany the hail storm of “Silver Whips.” You can hear the influence of Nivrana (or is it Pearl Jam?) in the grungy “Pearlescent,” with guitars that wash with distortion as Foucault bays Olstein’s cautionary warnings. The mid-tempo title song sounds like something Ronnie van Zant might have written as a deep album track, and there are Bad Company and U2 influences in “Bomblet,” with lyrics that find a poetic image among smartphones on a concert floor. Foucoult has a knack for setting Olstein’s poetry to riveting music, but listeners may want to keep an ornithology reference handy to look up “guillemots” and “auklets.” [Â©2013 Hyperbolium]