» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Nick Castro & The Poison Tree
Further from Grace
Strange Attractors

Rating: 8/10 ?

August 12, 2005
Acid-folk minstrel Nick Castro is an old soul. Wait, make that an olde soul - with the wild, restless heart of a gypsy and a taste for exotic world music.

If reincarnation has any validity at all, the hopelessly romantic Castro once lived as a medieval court musician and loved a young maiden he could never have, for her father was a nobleman and class differences kept them apart. Still smitten, young Castro has materialized from the gloaming of the Middle Ages with Further From Grace, a rich, resonant cache of traditional English folk music that sounds centuries old and completely authentic.

Shrouded in the mists of Avalon, Further From Grace is Castro's second album, and his haunting balladry has a mystical, timeless quality to it that's reminiscent of Van Morrison's Veedon Fleece. Castro adds just a touch of Syd Barrett's psych-folk madness and Middle Eastern seduction to make things interesting; in "To This Earth" and "Unborn Child", an array of fluttering whistles fly like birds around a dimly lit acoustic guitar that echoes Nick Drake's gray melancholy.

Though lovely - with a natural, organic feel that's missing from a lot of what passes for modern folk music - "To This Earth" and "Unborn Child" also sound a bit too dogmatic, as if Castro's afraid to offend the ghosts of the Renaissance troubadours. Still, Castro's magnificent finger-picking is a thing of beauty, especially when it's struck by plinking piano hail in the entirely Drake-inspired "Won't You Sing To Me", an ode to the moon and the stars and the people that we long to be with.

On Further From Grace, Castro keeps company with members of folk underground heroes the Espers and Josephine Foster, whose ethereal background wailing on the stunning opener "Sun Song" makes you shiver. The lovely accompaniment they provide actually gives Further From Grace the grace Castro so fervently seeks in his poetic lyrics. Instrumentally, the record moves with a captivating melodic elegance - especially in "Guilford", the Dylan-ish ballad "Walk like a Whisper" and "Deep Deep Sea", an instrumental bathed in the morning sunlight of Spanish horns, light acoustic guitar textures and popping bongos. Yet these tracks pale in comparison to the opener, "Sun Song": the oaken cello sounds so perfectly weathered it must have been made out of the wood of an old wine cask. Hypnotic hand drums, Meg Baird's eerie lap dulcimer and Castro's ever-present, ever-modulating whistles make "Sun Song" perfect for lounging in an opium den. The high lasts through the lush, mind-bending Indian raga "Music For Mijwiz", with swirling instrumentation made all the more trippy by Castro's crazed mijwiz playing.

Charmingly innocent, even chivalrous in a sense, Castro's lyrics - though often beautiful and touching - do sometimes tend toward insipid romanticism: "Her skin is white like snow/her hair is red like the blood that she caused to flow, through my heart" is just one of a handful of lines that make you clutch your stomach. If you have a strong constitution, Further From Grace's sweet melodies and soul-searching lyricism can be a refreshing change from all the macho hip-hop posing and cooler-than-you'll-ever-be hipster camera mugging. So give your love a cherry and quote to her from Yeats, and when you're both equally love struck - perhaps even sharing a joint while sitting underneath a weeping willow and staring up at the night sky - let Castro's Further From Grace take you to places you've never dreamed of.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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