Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Grandpa Egg - Underneath The Willow Tree


Second storybook song suite from Ohio psych-folkers. A dark and heartbreaking odyssey. OUT NOW!


Clocking in at over 80 minutes, Underneath The Willow Tree comes in a neatly packaged 2CD set. Despite the gloriously quirky cover art, rendered in bright orange and yellows, it's an at times unsettling tale of loneliness, bullying, and pain with redemption coming via fledgling friendships. Described by its authors “mostly fictional”, UTWT is the sort of album that will appeal to those who feel themselves to be outsiders, on the margins. It's an album for anyone who identifies as an underdog, and for those for whom redemption and revenge comes via writing rather than fighting.

So who are Grandpa Egg? A little history – They began back in 2010 when singer/songwriter Jeb Morris formed a musical partnership with musician/producer Bart Morris in Kent, Ohio, USA. In 2011 they released a debut LP Songs for My Cat. The following year they grew into a four-piece with Inga Kristaponyte joining on bass/keyboards and Jordin Goff joining on drums. The first storybook album Praying Mantis came out in 2014, with Underneath The Willow Tree following late last year.

Their sound owes much to the British psych-folk of Comus and Heron but also has something of Syd Barrett's nursery rhyme melody approach. Simple child-like melodies they may have but that's just a sweetener to make the bitter pill of the dark stories easier to take. And the parallel stories on Underneath The Willow Tree are dark ones. Centred around a socially awkward youth called Nicholas (hey we can all identify there right!). Nicholas finds a mysterious box of letters hidden in his bedroom wall, as he reads through them a tragic tale unfolds. Along the way there is bullying, loneliness, and a glimpse of light as Nicholas befriends a shy Korean girl (Holly Yeong) who moves in next-door. I'm not going to give too much of the plot away so no spoiler alerts. But do check it out, it's a unique and compelling listen.

With an instrumental pallette that includes mandolin, banjo, toy pianos and dulcimer along with guitars and keyboards, it is at times quirky and twee, then switches to sections of violent and dark dialogue. They've not opted for a polished overly thought out sound but opted instead for an in-the-moment, homespun approach. It works. The performances are more human, intimate even, encouraging empathy. I read recently in a book that to be a good writer what is required above all is limbic resonance. It's something Grandpa Egg seem to understand.


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