If you look up the word troubadour, you will see that they were “lyric poets who wrote songs and poems of a complex metrical form.” It’s hard not to think about Nels Andrews as a modern-day troubadour when you hear the new album Pigeon and the Crow.
Andrews kicks off the album with the mellow “Scrimshaw”. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this is a poem set to music. Quinn plays a shuffle beat while Sebastian Steinberg plays a jazzy line on the upright bass. In the background you hear Shane Cook’s fiddle part that is influenced by bluegrass. The layers of sound are muted, which allows you to pay attention to the story that includes seeing the Ferris wheel closed for the season on a day that is a “freezing” 55 degrees. It is a very pretty song that grabs your attention right off the bat.
You hear some Irish influence throughout the album, which makes sense since it was produced by traditional Irish flautist Nuala Kennedy. The influence comes through particularly strongly in “Memory Compass” with the accordion by Stelth Uvang Kora and Kennedy’s flute. Likewise you can hear a fair amount of Irish influence in “Eastern Poison Oak both in the fiddle and the mandolin played by Marla Fibish.
“South of San Gregorio” is a bit of a change-up from the rest of the album. Granted, it still has the mellow, poetic feel as the rest of the songs. However, there is a little Caribbean feel in the guitar and with the addition of steel drums played by Chris Wabuch.
“Table by the Kitchen” is a good example of how Andrews can create an image with his words. “I found that I lost it in the street, wrote about it in longhand in the back of restaurants. Watching the people watching each other, thinking I want what he has got.” It gives you the feeling that you are watching this scene through one of the restaurants mentioned in the song.
This is an impressive album with carefully crafted songs that will make you feel something. You can’t help but marvel at the arrangements and the layers of sound as well as Andrews’s ability as a lyricist. This isn’t the album if you’re in the mood to rock out, but if you want an easygoing display of songwriting and storytelling, this is an album you might play on repeat. Pigeon and The Crow will be available everywhere on August 9. Order your copy here.