The Cave Singers – Welcome Joy (Matador)

These days, it seems like you can’t shake a tree without at least one bearded folkie falling out, picking up an acoustic guitar and recording an album of Neil Young- and Bob Dylan-inspired tunes. While the trend towards stripped-down instrumentation and roots-oriented songwriting isn’t going away anytime soon, at least it’s bearing some sweet fruit.
Welcome Joy, the second full-length from Peter Quirk’s post-Pretty Girls Make Graves project, The Cave Singers, should feel like more of the same. They are, after all, travelling some well-trodden ground. Fortunately, the band manages to distinguish itself by embracing a wider range of Americana than most and by doing it so damn well.
Album opener “Summer Light” balances Quirk’s rough-hewn vocals with delicate acoustic guitar and backing vocals from Lightning Dust’s Amber Webber to lovely effect. “Leap” then follows nearly the same formula, adding a more energetic backbeat and licks of harmonica to the song’s constantly cresting structure.
By the third track, things really pick up, veering from the back-porch blues stomp of “At the Cut” to the more ethereal, percussion driven “Shrine” and the campfire singalong vibe of “VV.” The touchstones may be familiar — a touch of American Beauty guitar here, a bit of Ryan Adams-style revisionism there — but Quirk’s vocal delivery and the band’s impeccable performances keep it all fresh. Those who feel the folk-rock revival has overstayed its welcome should probably steer clear, but anyone curious to hear it done right would do well to welcome Quirk and company in.

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