I feel, whether as a lauded musicologist, a well-known critic, or some guy on the Internet (me), if you compare a guy's voice to Bob Dylan's, you've not only broken the ice for discussion, you're now treading for life in frigid waters. But DAMMIT Ned Warner sounds like Bob Dylan. Not just in inflection, his vocal range is totally Desire-era Dylan. It's probably the last thing he wants to hear, but as a critic you point these things out. But that's just as far as vocals go. Musically, Golden Arrow is full of finely chiseled acoustic pop (except the title track, which is a completely left-field slice of progressive rock) that owes more to Lee Hazlewood than Dylan.
Ned Warner cites two major factors in the development of Golden Arrow: His cousin Rose Polenzani a respected musician in Boston's Americana scene, and his recent marriage. I would like to personally thank both of them because this is great stuff. Warner's talent is made immediately apparent on "Carry On." The song is simple; two guitars (one being I believe a pedal steel guitar) playing simple chord structures side-by-side, building into a short harmonica bridge. Meanwhile, Warner sings, with no small amount of soul, "all you want is roaring silence / drive off in a getaway car / now you're here and you know just where you / are carry on." It sounds simple but the end product is lush with sweet regret and reconciliation.
Actually I wish I could better define Warner's ability to pack emotion into his songs. "Native Girl" uses delayed vocals, steady percussion meant to evoke tribalism and a strangely in-place organ to weave a coming of age tale. The music can contradict itself; compare "Native Girl" or "Carry On" to the bare bones "Where the Damn Dirt Goes," which is focused more on Warner's mournful guitar sounds than any of the instruments that accompany him in the song. "And who are you, you miners digging in my heart / Where does the damn dirt go?"
But sometimes Warner gets tired of being awesome at rustic pop and decides to be awesome in other ways. Remember the title track? I thought I had somehow skipped in my library to a Talking Heads track but no, it was just Warner being weird, and effectively so. Jumpy bass or guitar to give the song the 80s feel, and Warner's voice sounds so natural in the slowly oscillating synthetic rhythms that I'm actually curious to hear what he does if he decides to pursue this line of music fully. "Riding Your Bike" is a fun little experiment in mixing; Warner's voice sounds like he's the only dude playing at a free concert in a park. Heavily muted, simple guitar chords while Warner wails lines like "When I'm riding your bike, I think of you." And of course the harmonica makes itself known on this final track.
Golden Arrow is heavily recommended, whether just for the novelty of a guy who sounds weirdly like Dylan or for the far more concrete reason that Warner is a multi-talented musician with excellent ideas on how to present his summery brand of pop and the know-how to pull them off.
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