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Utah Carol | Comfort for the Traveler (Utah Carol)
Anyone approaching Utah Carol expecting to discover another Handsome Family (and the traditional cowboy song origin of the name, Mojo Americana Album of the Month for previous offering 'Wonderwheel', and the inclusion of songs titled Cowboy Pop Song and The Way of the Buffalo might just lead you to that conclusion) may be disappointed to find 'Comfort for the Traveler' is as steeped in dreamy boy/girl pop as 'Twilight' is in gothic neo-country. Ostensibly a duo, Grant Birkenbeuel (vocals, guitars, organs) and JinJa Davis (vocals, keys) are Utah Carol, augmented by percussion, occasional strings and subtle horns. Swapping lead and harmony vocals Grant and JinJa cast their spell within the opening pairing of Airplanes and Misfits, relaxed jaunts that deal with love and life lost whilst superficially sounding like spring into summer. Jangly guitars and sprightly percussion pepper proceedings and it's a record that reveals itself to be high on details and subtlety. Some Pizzicato Five pizzaz infiltrates Angel, there's an echo of 'Tango In The Night'-era Fleetwood Mac on Find A Way, and a Calexico-like vibe to Nellie, but this is largely a collection of deceptively simple pop delights. Perhaps, as with most melody-led collections, fifteen tracks is too many for one sitting - two inconsequential instrumentals in particular could have been omitted ?? but 'Comfort for the Traveler' sparkles for 40 minutes, lovingly crafted, lush and charming.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002