maandag 12 mei 2014

Acoustic at the Ryman. Band of Horses

Acoustic at the Ryman. Where and what is the Ryman?, I thought to myself while I was listening to the latest issue of Band of Horses recently. Last night I put on Neil Young's 'Heart of gold' DVD and lo and behold: it was recorded at the Ryman, in Nashville. The Ryman Auditorium is a brick building from the late 19th century where all the greats seem to have performed and are performing still. So much for this history lesson.

Band of Horses so far have never been reviewed by me. I had ex-colleagues that spoke really well of the band, but it never touched me deeply enough. On the Acoustic at the Ryman cd they do. And I know why too. In the stripped down songs the songs played have the quality and emotions of Chris Bell's ballads on the first Big Star album. Band of Horses comes uncannily close to the ballads on #1 Record. Listening to Acoustic at the Ryman more often changed my opinion though, which I'll come back to.

Band of Horses is Ben Bridwell's band, with more ex-members than current members and makes records since 2006 with a steady growing following through the years. For this record the band members stripped of their electric gear and just play acoustic guitars and piano. The mood is mellow, not unlike a MTV Unplugged session of old. The link with Neil Young is not a strange one, just like the intricate three or four part harmonies sound somewhat similar to CSNY or The Eagles. Listening to Acoustic ... it is totally unbelievable that Band of Horses debuted on Sub Pop Records. Band of Horses of course had nothing to do with the grunge of its hometown of Seattle, but the form its songs receive on Acoustic... is another mile away from grunge.

Like all previous albums of Band of Horses I'm having trouble to stay focussed for the whole duration. It is a long haul to sit through the album. 'The funeral' is just not such a good song, despite the enormous reception the song receives, especially from screaming ladies. This band has real fans, there is no denying that, hearing how enthusiastic the songs are received by the audience. Band of Horses has lost me in the mean time. It doesn't when I listen to Acoustic ... when doing something else. Whether shopping, walking or working, the album suits me just fine then. Not so when I'm listening intensely. I get the impression that Band of Horses is not as good as it thinks it is in baring its songs to acoustic nakedness.

Again having listened several times, I stick to my conclusions, but also admit to a few things. When one of the songs comes by in shuffle mode, each of them so far stand out. Acoustic at the Ryman is an extremely atmospheric album. The audience and band are both in rapture and give it their all. The singing is real good, not CSNY or The Beach Boys good, but very good. Band of Horses finds the harmonies any place in a song. I deliberately put 'Neighbors' as a link below, as the band sings large chunks of the song a capella. Looking at the record from that point of view, it is totally successful and satisfying. A whole album is just too much for me. If you're a fan though either of Band of Horses or of this sort of unplugged, acoustic music in general, Acoustic at the Ryman may well be your album.

It all ends with someone saying: "We'll be right back". Kind of a strange ending for a live album. And one thing's for certain also. Band of Horses' can go 'Kaap'ren varen' any time. They are (nearly) all men with beards.


You can listen to 'Neighbor' here.

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