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Tandy | The Bloodroot Transcriptions (Yellow Slipper)
Considering that upstate New York's Tandy have worked with Townes Van Zandt, Dave Von Ronk and Rick Danko, it's strange that the band is little more than a whisper in Britain. After three albums, Tandy's fans remain few and scattered. There is good reason for this. Whilst last year's Lichtenstein's Oriole was their most rounded album thus far, achieving cult status amongst alt. fans, there was, at least to this listener, a frustrating missing element that would set the band apart. The songs were good, as were the performances and hooks, but as a whole; it was a pleasing rather than exciting experience. Consequently, I'm delighted to report that with The Bloodroot Transcriptions, Tandy has come of age. The band revolves around songwriter, singer, guitarist and producer Mike Ferrio, so it's safe to assume that it was he that decided upon following the increasingly agreed ethos that less is more. Ferrio has stripped down the Tandy sound, and changed the emphasis. Previously, the focus seemed on poppier presentation and a degree of urgency that could suppress just the wrong side of enough space. With this new zingy, mainly acoustic approach, the songs really come to life, and this vigour is heard in Ferrio's most confident set of vocals by far. The earthiness that drew comparisons with The Band and early R.E.M is still intact, but there is a great deal more going on here than in Tandy's previous work. Amongst the textbook roots instrumentation, for example, are a cello, tablas and a sitar. I've not encountered Country 'n' Eastern before, but it is a pleasure to make its acquaintance. Rather than fuck about, Ferrio has a preference for live studio recording, and this very successful experiment in Gospel-tinged Country-Blues is given a crystal production. The band â?? Ferrio, Tom McCrum on drums, bassist Scott Yoder and Drew Glackin on all manner of stringed things â?? are so good, that unless you were told of their recording technique, it would be difficult to tell. Telepathy â?? a sign of a great band. Lyrically, Ferrio truly excels on this album. He looks at life's tiniest effects with as much attention as the grander scheme, but from odd, acute angles. Periods in time seem to interweave, colliding with fragments of memories and proclamations to produce dense cascades of images and questions. The beauty of it all is that much of it is almost open to agreed interpretation â?? but not quite. For example, the aching That's My Candle opens "The candle-light flickered / and the shadow-dog danced on the wall / No half of no bottle / could not make me fail to recall / the colour of your sunburn / the wet and sweet smell of mown hay / the curve of your eye-lashes / back up and caused me to say..." and I'm afraid you'll have to buy the album to get the rest. So, a love song, right? But is Maria a real memory, or a fantasy borne of drunkenly staring at a mesmeric candle flame? (As can happen, I assure you). It's all as enchanting as it is puzzling, and an integral part of the triumph of The Bloodroot Transcriptions. The latter half of the album is near faultless, as five potential alt. Country classics stand in line, and in creating the space, Mike Ferrio has done what he has long promised, and found the true Tandy sound. I hope that this does not prove to be an unplugged interlude because as is, this is very special.
CWAS #8 - Summer 2001