G. Rockwell and Micah Nicol are Bookmatch, a Boston-based acoustic folk-bluegrass duo who have just released Beacon Street Time after a year of recording. The band describe themselves as “two kindred spirits joined by their love for acoustic music that touches the heart, marrying virtuostic instrumentals and tender vocals.” The band name they chose for themselves is interesting, as the two main artists really are “matching book ends” to the music they make together. Rockwell plays guitar and banjo, and Nicol plays guitar and bass. Ariel Wyner adds mandolin on two songs, and guest Sofia Chiarandini plays fiddle. I’m guessing that the two songwriters take lead vocals on each of their own songs.
This album was recorded in an interesting way: each track began in a live room with the two main members playing together, then adding overdubs in exactly the same place and manner, so the result feels like a live band being recorded organically. I did feel the illusion they created was flawless, but it turns out that Nicol is a freelance audio engineer and mixer, so that may have something to do with it!
“Slowly” starts at a very high level with a gentle folk-country love song featuring sweet tenor voices. This is music very much the equal of the great ’70s folk artists: Bromberg, Lightfoot, etc. Ariel Wyner’s mandolin is terrific. “Bitter Coffee Cowboy” starts out like a song written for a movie Western soundtrack (“Young Guns,” “Heaven’s Gate”) but then both lyrically and musically recalls the wonderful and sadly missed Nanci Griffith. Sofia Chiarandini adds a touch of class with her fiddle.
“We’ll Be Alright” sounds like a tender love song given a superficial listen, but reading the lyrics is a shocker, as the loved one in question is losing her hair and saying “she’ll be going.” I’m starting to cry and not ashamed! Musically this song appears to be just the two boys and they do quite well on their own. Wyner returns on mandolin and Chiarandini on fiddle for “The Only Time Is Now,” yet another fine folk tune that I’m guessing features Rockwell on terrifically smooth lead vocals. There’s some wonderful interaction among “all” the players between the lyrics, including some lovely keyboard moments. “I’m On My Way” is yet another deep and touching song, this time about finding one’s way home after a long absence. Maybe not quite as excellent as the others thus far, but you’d need Sheldon Cooper’s microscope to know for sure.
“Beacon Street Time” is the amiable concluding track, and feels a bit more jammy and relaxed than the rest of the collection, which makes for a perfect curtain call. It’s over way before you expect it to be.
I’m always amazed at the talent that exists outside the mainstream, especially talent that might have been rewarded in a different era. These guys capture their folk bluegrass idiom perfectly with great songs and heartfelt performances. What else can I say?
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