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Doors and Windows
Label: Compass Records
Time: 11 Tracks / 38 Minutes
Bearfoot sounds to this roots fan, who is not a great bluegrass devotee, like the future of the genre. The band certainly has oodles of crossover appeal.
The players began as music counsellors at a bluegrass summer camp, but within two years had become Telluride Bluegrass Band Champions – an accolade they share with Dixie Chicks and Nickel Creek. This is their début album for Compass, but their fourth altogether, and their maturity shows.
Doors and Windows strikes me as being able to do for bluegrass what Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours did for pop-rock ballads. Both have plenty of singable tunes, both send a constant stream of enjoyment out from the speakers, and both sound made for radio. They even share a darker underbelly. While Fleetwood Mac’s lyrics hinted at the pain of their failing marriages, Bearfoot’s have the shadow of death: “I left the room not knowing then / That the words we spoke would be the last you’d say” (“My One True Love”); and “Caroline” is about a woman with a deathly secret. There are also songs of lost love and regrets, but don’t get the wrong idea: this is an upbeat disc that you can happily leave on repeat.
The sounds of different tracks are nicely varied. “Oh My Love” has a spacious opening and singable chorus; while follower “Single Girl” sounds jaunty (even though it is a song of regret that a child has put an end to the singer’s free and easy single days); and the longest and best track, “Doors and Windows,” has a subdued, oaky French feel to it. They make The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” their own, and finish the collection with a superb à capella harmony track, “Good in the Kitchen” (I think I counted all five vocalists). No song is filler or out of place.
Odessa Jorgensen has joined them on this album as a fiddler and a mighty fine lead vocalist, and they have several guest musicians adding a bit more edge.
Bearfoot claim to have aimed for a more blended, whole-band sound with this disc, rather than following a formula with set places for solos. They have succeeded. Everything flows; there is a real lightness to the feel of the album; and instrumentation is only used when it adds something. For anyone who likes roots music, this is about as safe a bet as you get.