Theo Bleckmann & Kneebody: At the River

Track

At the River

Group

Theo Bleckmann & Kneebody

CD

Twelve Songs by Charles Ives (Winter & Winter 910 147)

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Musicians:

Theo Bleckmann (vocals, live electronic processing),

Ben Wendel (reeds, effects), Adam Benjamin (keyboards, effects), Shane Endsley (trumpet, percussion, effects), Kaveh Rastegard (bass, effects), Nate Wood (drums)

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Composed by Charles Ives with lyrics by Robert Lowry

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Recorded: New York, February 2008

Albumcovertheobleckmann12song

Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

An irreverent kind of 1980s pastiche often haunts releases from the Winter & Winter label like some kind of encroaching urban blight. Even when it lays low, the listener senses that it is waiting in the wings. Yet Theo Bleckmann has been blessed with a big, forthright voice that seems ill-suited to this ragtag aesthetic. He almost sounds like he was born to be a bard of yore, belting out the time-honored ballads of some cherished tradition. As a result, much of this CD is permeated with an unresolved tension between the singer and the setting. But on this track, the elements cohere. The mixture of the ambient electronica and Bleckmann's straight-as-an-arrow approach to tone production is quite effective. When the rest of the instruments enter, almost at the conclusion of the track, they seem poised for something kitschy, then surprise you by showing admirable restraint. All in all, this is a poised, deep performance. Even so, I urge Bleckmann—who sometimes shows hints of greatness—to leave the electronics in the attic next time. He is best heard in a more austere, under-produced setting.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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