Album review: Vollmar, "Tell the Dirt" 

Bloomington-based singer-songwriter Justin Vollmar, recording with his brother Nathan Vollmar on drums and David Brant (Bronze Float) on guitar, has worked up a modest, introspective, confessional set of song fragments on Tell The Dirt, released on a vinyl-only, limited-edition offshoot of the Secretly Canadian empire. Moments of fuller orchestration and syncopation (read, snare drums and a guitar riff) tantalizingly suggest a fuller sound that Vollmar didn't aim for, but what the album is -- a quiet evening with Justin and his acoustic guitar in what seems a rural setting -- makes for an appropriately scaled-down project for St. Ives.

All Music Guide's Richie Unterberger put it perfectly in a review of an earlier album by Vollmar: While his work seems made for the campfire, Vollmar's voice has "a vulnerability and quirky introspection largely missing from the music made at most informal social gatherings." Vollmar takes us to the heart of an almost autistic detachment on "Solitary," explaining, in an overloaded line, that "when I'm in public / I find it hard to focus on a line of sight towards those natural expressions that lead to reciprocations." That's perhaps the most tortuously self-centered song on the album, and things look somewhat outward from there. The leadoff track, "Tell The Dirt," may succeed because it's removed from Vollmar: The speaker, lightly sing-talking alongside a tasteful synth line and acoustic strum, addresses himself to playfully anthropomorphized objects ("Tell the dirt to tell the pole to tell the telephone cord we're at home").

The Vollmar brothers sometime accompany Brant on his project Bronze Float, and while Brant's work strikes the same vibe (late on a summer night in the country, crickets chirping, a slight wind, honest folks telling their barely sublimated problems), it has a little something more: a less claustrophobic feel, a hook or two, more unexpected lyrics.

(The limited pressing of 300 records features time-lapse photographs by William Winchester Claytor; each record features a unique photo taken over a four-hour shoot. Available in vinyl or MP3 from www.scdistribution.com.)

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