Nels Andrews 'Scrimshaw' - Self Release

The third album from Andrews is inspired by the sea, the whaling boats of the 1800s that set out on voyages of 3 years and more. A scrimshaw is a piece of carved whale bone or whale ivory. The space, loneliness, fear and expectation of such a journey is reflected in the songs here that have a engaging light touch that draws you into their heart and immerses you in the music of the album. Producer Todd Sickafoose has given each song a depth that allows Andrews vocals to float free and and the same time to anchor each song. Around the vocal the players carve out the characters who inhabit the songs. There is an air of melancholy in Andrews folk/rock/Americana that finds the evocative pedal steel sound blending with flute, banjo, mandolin and violin to create a wholly enjoyable sound that makes the album work as a unit rather than a set of individual intricate songs. The vocals are also integrated together to create another layer that is equally effective. One track Three Hermits uses the words of WB Yeats to good effect alongside Andrews' sometimes poetic use of words and inventive musical beds. The overall mood is of a becalmed sea, a gentleness that is its own reward that has occasional spikes and troughs. Lost Year opens with ambient sound and cymbals while a banjo picks and the drums come in to drive the song slowly forward. That is typical of the slow intensity that this music has and the way that Andrews words and voice suggest something foreboding and impending. Scrimshaw is a collection of songs of flickering characters and places, like an early Vitascope projection on a peeling wall. Nels Andrews is worth looking out for on any musical horizon.