Nothing Rhymes With Woman
Some bands insist on dragging listeners into their world, but Carbon Leaf works towards a more admirable and considerably more difficult goal – that of letting perfect strangers feel that the band understands their world. The band succeeds in doing just that -- and in creating a soundtrack suitable for multiple worlds -- on its third Vanguard release, Nothing Rhymes With Woman.
“For me, this is an album that’s focused on growth and maturity, but it’s not deadly serious,” says front man Barry Privett. “I wanted to examine my life and the lives of my family and friends and do it with a little bit of a wink. The last thing I wanted to do was get all dark and overwrought.”
Privett and his bandmates dodge that pitfall with aplomb on Nothing Rhymes With Woman, the much-anticipated follow-up to the acclaimed 2006 offering Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat. As ever, the quintet -- recently joined by drummer Jason Neal, a veteran of the southeast’s club circuit, and Seattle bassist Jon Markel -- challenge themselves and listeners by steadfastly refusing to retrace old steps, bringing in like-minded collaborators (like Toby Lightman, who brings a burnished tone to her vocal parts on the gritty “Meltdown”) and taking off in plenty of new directions of their own accord.
That sense of freshness, to hear Privett tell the tale, has a lot to do with the relaxed nature of the disc’s recording, which took place in their Richmond, Virginia backyard. “This time, we did something we hadn’t done in a long time, and that was to just throw away the timeline altogether,” says the singer. “We waited until everyone believed in every single song without any doubt or questions. It was a return to the days of doing music for the sheer joy of just doing it.”
The joy he’s talking about proves contagious throughout the 13-song disc, both in sonic touches like the soaring harmonies that buoy “Indecision” and the instantly-relatable vibe of narratives like the nostalgic childhood flashback “X-Ray.” The tones are certainly varied -- things get more than a little misty on “Pink,” a poignant tale of a woman battling serious illness -- but they’re invariably free of artificiality. Every color here is one that one can find in nature.
“A lot of the songs are about getting back to your roots,” says Privett, who reckons the band gained a lot of traction by spending a considerable stretch of time close to home, as opposed to its usual relentless touring slate. “You know, holding onto the touchstones that keep you grounded in reality. They’re easy to lose sight of sometimes, and often you need reminding. Fortunately, we have friends and family that will do that in no uncertain terms.”
Nothing Rhymes With Woman finds the Virginia-based band firmly in touch with its roots -- the Celtic tinge that cloaks “Pink” is reminiscent of Carbon Leaf’s passel of self-released discs. Throughout the set, however, the quintet affirms a commitment to moving forward, kicking out the jams a bit more aggressively on the sinewy walking blues “Another Man’s Woman” and interpolating the rich organ playing of longtime Dave Matthews Band keyboardist Butch Taylor on several tracks, including the arresting opener … Read More