I keep getting lucky in hearing melodic, thoughtful and American music, which has been my taste for a while. Yet again, a warm new voice is heard in Noah Gundersen, a Seattle-based singer and songwriter, who seems to have studied the Alan Lomax catalogs of folk music. This new album, Ledges, is becoming a fast favorite – certainly on my iPod. A lot of raw emotion along with a sense of yearning spirituality comes across in these songs and give them a greater sense of drama and meaning. “Poor Man’s Son” opens the album, reminding me of an old-time hymn – at once gripping while being a little unsettling for a first track on an album. “Boat House” is simply gorgeous; the melody initially reminded me of R.E.M. (I was thinking “Country Feedback”) and moves along with impassioned vocals, violins and piano, plus a fine sounding acoustic guitar/bass/drums combination. “Separator” has a nice, light tempo with vocals playing off violin and acoustic guitars as it builds into a harmony-laced chorus against bleak lyrics – at times, Gundersen’s vocals remind me of a younger Tom Waits, with his rasp, but it always remains melodic. The title track is another lyrical portrait in stark black and white: “…I drink a little too much/It makes me nervous/I have my grandfather’s blood…” – most of these songs tell unhappy stories that the protagonist holds hope but is fighting a losing battle. His songs are, in effect, musical mini-novels. “Liberator” starts stripped down with just acoustic guitar and vocals but then builds to another emotional height with piano and violin but then stops with just guitar and voice; “Time Moves Quickly” is a piano-based dirge that cannot escape the Waits comparison, especially with the sad violin refrain accompanying.
This is a remarkably world-weary piece of work from someone only 25 years old and a solid debut effort. Certainly, I can say that Ledges is not to be missed.