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Sickle & the Sheaves
Artist: Doug Burr
Times: 11 tracks/48 minutes
Doug Burr was virtually unknown to me until I picked up his independent project The Sickle & the Sheaves. I had heard of his band before, The Lonelies, but not Burr. The music that I first heard from this album was inviting, yet just a little hard to make a good connection. I'm a big fan of alt-country and folk, so I thought that this disc might grow on me, but it just didn't.
The Sickle & the Sheaves is a straightforward, alt-country gospel album, and there is no messing around with that. I really respect the nature of this album, musically and lyrically. But there is just something that keeps me from grasping the fullness of what Burr is presenting to the listener. Musically, this album lands somewhere between O Brother Where Art Thou, sans the heavy bluegrass influence, and Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball. Mostly acoustic instrumentation meets wide open production with plenty of reverb in the air. This combination makes for a pleasant and relaxing listen. The album begins a bit slowly, with "Meet You in the Sunrise" and "Friend of Sinners," but by track four, it picks up with "Hide Me in Your Wing." With the exception of a few more upbeat tracks, the album lacks any good hooks to draw in the listener. I hate to call this album boring, but I really can't find the words to express how I feel about it. And that is unusual for me.
Fans of Lost Dogs or Vigilantes of Love may warm up to this album more than I have, but then again, they might realize that The Sickle & the Sheaves lacks some of the creative nature that those bands have found to put a spark back into rootsy rock.
Zach Delph August 12, 2004