December 5, 2013 by Robb Powell
The day hath cometh. It is finally here and it feels like my birthday has come early. My ears are so happy they would weep a torrent of joyful tears if they could but it would require flood warnings. While it does feel like I’ve been waiting for this album for a long time it is only because I became such a huge fan of Pawns or Kings after first checking out their music way back at the beginning of August 2012. Pomme de Terre has indeed been a while in the making but boy, it has been fully worth it! Featuring nine stunning original tracks, a charming interlude (note: I love interludes) and a bonus in the form of a beautiful cover of Fleet Foxes’ He Doesn’t Know Why, this is an album to make your musical year complete!
While I fell instantly in love with their sound via debut Letters To Lucy, the first important thing to note about this new record is how much the guys have progressed. Sure, there is a huge amount of quality evident in that earlier work which cannot go unmentioned but here it all just sounds so much tighter and well-accomplished. The wealth of original material showcases a depth and versatility lacking in a number of more established signed acts out there at present. Another thing that strikes you almost instantly is a similarity in sound to bands like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers. This is most evident on songs like Light Over The Ridge and Late Have I Loved. These songs really get you singing along before too long and with prominent banjo being played superbly those legs of yours will take on a life of their own. Far from being overshadowed by the similarity to their influences, Pawns or Kings demonstrate how adept they are within an increasingly popular genre.
It really is only on a few of the tracks too and I commented right from the start how they are certainly no mere mimics. They display a very definitive and innovative flare of originality which is more responsible for hooking me in to them than any other sound they may be akin to. That said, with the huge success Mumfords and the like are currently experiencing on both sides of the Atlantic it is no bad thing to catalogue Pawns or Kings amongst them. Just ensure you check out the whole of the record before thinking it may just all be the same because there is far more in the way of adventure for you to discover from these Ozarks boys. Indeed as much of a fan of Mumford and Sons as I am, I was sorely disappointed with their second album, Babel. I’m aware this may be a bit controversial to suggest but having had several listens already I honestly think Pomme de Terre outshines Babel. If there was a vote to choose which was the better I would select Pomme de Terre, make no mistake. If the two albums were in a sports race, this independently self-produced record would win by such a margin, Babel would be a tiny dot in the distance.
The real substance (not that the two songs already mentioned lack any – they don’t) can be uncovered from the multidimensional layers when listening to the much more subtle yet equally engaging opener Names and Maps. Right from the off the sharp lyricism is shown for its great worth and you know you’re in for a very thought provoking and inspired forty five minutes or so. Or the simply sublime Wandering (errantando) complete with its Spanish verse and incredibly infectious melody. Equally infectious is the title track with its gentle friendly and reflective life message and the gorgeous short instrumental Weaubleau Creek which brings that creek right to you.
Stand out tracks? They are more like – bungee jump and knock you right out – tracks, they sound so good! I was impressed with a capital IMPRESSED by both Black Clouds (Troubled Man) and Shadow of a Man. The former is a rather melancholy masterpiece in my opinion. It is so evocative. As deep as caverns old and as dark as pitch. A nice distinctive bass and some brilliant guitar results in the perfect moody emotional atmosphere. Add in the ethereal, and at times very low, ah’s and umms – then some beautiful piano and just wow! The latter is like a letter of reflection to a love song while its predecessor The River Will Rise just leaves me feeling in awe of what these guys have created here.
All good things must come to an end so they say and Pomme de Terre does so in monumental style with a bonus cover of He Doesn’t Know Why (Fleet Foxes). While this version doesn’t have that initial big bolshy harmonious burst of the Foxes original (there are many more of them after all), this is no bad thing. It is a magnificent and accomplished cover of such a quality band. Even for its subtlety there is a gusto in those vocals from both Ed and Ben. Yes, as much as I adore Ed’s vocals it was a treat to hear Ben take a joint lead on this track. The banjo works perfectly too, adding a warmer dimension than the breezy original.
I’ll be honest, I knew I was not going to be let down by this album but I also admit that maybe I wasn’t expecting it to be such a complete hit on every single level. It is far more superior than most new albums being released by big established bands across a number of genres at the moment. If the music industry needs a pointer as to where to start reinvesting in the near future then look no further than Pawns or Kings. Just listen to Pomme de Terre and let the musicianship, writing and real soul for good music speak for themselves. https://www.facebook.com/PawnsorKings
Please note the album is currently available as part of a name your price deal but it will be set at $5 in the very near future. I was offered it free for reviewing but you know what, I paid $10 for it because it is totally worth it and I want to hear more from these guys in the future. $5 will be a bargain for such a wonderful record.
There are also now some awesome t-shirts available which you can check out via this link >>here<<.