October 20, 2011

CD Review: Old Soul takes a less-is-more tack to create a full spectrum

By MIKE OLCOTT

Restraint is one of the rarest and most valuable qualities for a young band. On the unassuming self-titled debut from the Portland-based trio Old Soul, Mike O'Hehir, Danielle Savage and Brendan Shea have harnessed a lovely, low-burning sound and splashed it across nine rainy-morning songs.

HOW IT RATES

OLD SOUL: "OLD SOUL" ****

PRODUCED BY Keith J. Nelson

Based on a five-star scale

The less-is-more acoustic arrangements on Old Soul allow the players to cultivate some hearty anticipation in their listeners and then unleash a devastating release. Check out the sleepy two-chord figure in "Home." Savage and O'Hehir make for some gauzy harmonies, and then, after a patient build, the guitar lick that tumbles from the sky is storybook-perfect for the moment.

"Blackbird Calling" sounds like an early Counting Crows tune minus the melodrama. Finally, where color is needed, color is applied, as with Brian Arnold's steady brass foundation in "Caught a Train."

This understated, selective style suits a range of listening environments, a quality crucial to a resonant first impression. People often talk about "not having to pay attention" as a strong incentive to keeping a record on play. With "Old Soul," whether you're turning over every stone for details or humming while you fold laundry, your ears can find what they're listening for.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer.

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