Axel Quinlan is from the music rich city of Kalamazoo, MI. After years of playing in punk and noise-rock bands, he started down the acoustic road with the folk-punk outfit The Almanac Shouters. After two albums, multiple tours and regional success, the band peacefully dissolved. Without a band, Quinlan continued writing folk music with an emphasis on introspective lyrics and finger-picking guitar. His debut album as a solo artist has just been released entitled Above Covered Skies and he is now touring the Midwest to promote his songs.
The mammoth 16-track album truly displays his dedication not only to create a substantial amount of quality content, but the time he puts into songwriting. Coming in at somewhere around an hour, this is truly a folk adventure rather than a short collection of folk snippets. “Overature & The Dreamer,” the first track on the album, guides the listener in with a beautiful acoustic guitar arpeggio and soothing singing. Quinlan sings of being a dreamer, because there’s so much more to see. This otherworldly expansive outlook is captured even with the intimate confines of the opener. It’s joyous, but mysterious.
“Leaving Ohio” is preceded by the sound of a train leaving a station. A subtle effect, but one which made me smile. Every inch of this album screams folk and yet it does so in a refreshing way. It’s elating, but also purposefully vague. The listener is left searching for the answers within Quinlan’s lyrics. He sings of a new job fishing on the sea and “Working for a boss who shares my name.” It’s a simple tale, but the instrumental and vocal melodies carry this story and transform it into a journey. These are all the elements which create the best folk albums and Quinlan’s captured them in a way I haven’t heard on an album in a long time.
‘“Morning Star & Bus Ride Into The Sunrise” is the song I would imagine myself hearing in some distance crevice of my mind as I disappear into some distant sunrise. It’s another simple, beautiful acoustic melody and another round of husky (yet smooth) vocals, but the lyrics are what make the song. Quinlan’s story continues as he sings about a driveway disappearing behind him and the miles he plans to traverse. He sings romantically of a moon looming above him and the woman on his mind. It’s an ode to the beauty of nature and people.
In summary, ‘Above Covered Skies is a lengthy album but one which triumphs because of it. Every song has a purpose and Quinlan has a long story to tell. It’s definitely worth listening to for those who love folk music and songs with an intriguing meaning at their core.
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