Back Mic – “Haunted Mountain” (4m)
The musical output from Big Thief’s milieu has been, and continues to be, impressive. Five great Big Thief albums in the past seven years, plus solo albums from singer/guitarist Adrianne Lenker. Guitarist Buck Meek released his third solo album, Haunted Mountain, for the first time on 4AD. Given the creativity of Adrianne Lenker, who single-handedly wrote 19 of the 20 tracks for Big Thief’s latest album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You (only “Certainty” Meek is listed as a co-writer), he is, but it’s not surprising that Meek put together a eleven new songs in the two years since its predecessor, “Two Saviors”.
Declaration of love for the mountains
And now “Haunted Mountain”. Incidentally, the mountain should not be understood here only as a symbol. The mountainous landscapes of Portugal, Greece (“Cyclades”), Switzerland and the USA were a major source of inspiration for the album. Five of the eleven songs were written by Meek in collaboration with folk musician Julie Holland. Indeed, the Netherlands has done so as well She recorded a version of the title track, “Haunted Mountain”. Her new album under the same title will be released in October. Holland said that she and Mick came up with the album’s title independently and, after some thought, found it “strange and wonderful”. The song is a declaration of love for Northern California’s Mount Shasta. The first two tracks are by Holland, and the third by Mick. In addition to the love of nature, the album is also about personal feelings. “Sometimes you have the feeling that all the great love songs have already been written,” Meek himself was quoted as saying in the press release. So what can he add to that? For example, the cute and catchy “I Didn’t Know You Then,” which tells the story of getting to know each other. Or the equally mesmerizing-sounding “Where Do You Come From” that vibrates briefly in the chorus.
But let’s start at the beginning: On the album’s first track, “Mood Ring,” electric guitar shimmers around the song’s rhythmic frame, as we know and love from Big Thief. As the album progressed, the songwriting became more classic and country. Pedal steel guitar (played by Matt Davidson, who also produced the album) dominates the sound on previous single “Haunted Mountain”. Meek’s cracking voice briefly makes you think of Indigo De Souza and the great LP “All Of This Will End” this year. De Souza achieved at least similar tones with the release of her album On Saddle Creek (keyword: pedal steel). And so the circle ends: The great thief was known in Saddle Creek. The playful “Undae Dunes” has found its place on perhaps the most classic rock album yet, “Two Hands”.
Relaxed country sound instead of super indie folk
Two beautiful songs await at the end of the album: With “Lagrimas” Meek manages to create a great Americana song with great drumming. And for the closer “The Rainbow”, Meek used previously unpublished lyrics by folk singer Judy Sale, who died in 1979. He tried to write a song in their style. The result is a dreamy two-minute gem that transports you to Laurel Canyon in the ’70s and makes you want to dig deeper for Judy Sale.
Even if of course it’s not entirely fair to constantly compare Mick’s solo work to that of his main band, because that certainly wasn’t his claim: the more traditional songwriting both musically and lyrically on “Haunted Mountain” marks the crucial difference, as well as missing. Lenker and Meek’s vocal harmonies with otherworldly versions of indie folk are what make Big Thief so special. Although Meek’s sense of harmony is great as a backing vocalist, as a lead singer, he can’t deliver the same range of emotions as Lenker. Plus, a Meek fan might miss the lo-fi charm of the “Two Saviors” predecessor. With its soft, rustic voice, “Haunted Mountain” can certainly be a sweet companion in many moments. For example, as the soundtrack to a road trip through mountain roads. Or the moment you get to the hut while hiking in the hut and put your feet up. Mick, who now lives in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California, seems to have found a new home in the mountains: “Now that I live here on this haunted mountain / I know I’m never going down again.”
Release date: August 25, 2023
Labels: 4 m
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