Doveman: The Acrobat

Opening with the richly melodic and sadly beautiful, "Honey", and closing with the wallflower's lament, "Dancing", Doveman make a place for themselves in the complex, melancholic company of Nick Drake with their debut, The Acrobat.

Led by vocalist/pianist Thomas Bartlett and bolstered by the improvisational talents of Sam Amidon (banjo, guitar), Dougie Bowne (drums, guitar), Shahzad Ismaily (drums, guitar), Jacob Danzinger (electronics, violin), and Peter Ecklund (cornet); the band somehow matches the soft, sleepy, and anxious delivery of main man, Bartlett. At one time Bartlett had to overcome his tentativeness of singing before others. But this is how we have come to be blessed with knowing some of the more interesting voices in modern music today. Bartlett sings in a cool-to-the-touch blue whisper, coming at you from a place somewhere between sleeping and waking.

The opening song, "Honey", gives up the most radio-friendly track straight off. Some tinkling percussion meeting the contrast of a banjo's warm twang and the cool ivory plinking of piano combine to carry a lovely, lovely melody decorated with silver trinkets. Tasteful baubles draped around throat, dangling from ears, and tugging at wrist; a melody that shows just enough skin to spark the imagination. It's the 'Pink Moon album Nick Drake' with an American whisper and Technicolor vista supplanting Drake's British greys, blacks, and whites.

"Teacup" evokes Daniel Lanois' ethereal forest folk music, but set in the mind of an urban insomniac. In "Teacup" restless guitar squalls echo amongst the buildings and sweep down dirty alleys as opposed to Lanois' sonic palette, which evokes watery backcountry settings, the bayou, and Lanois's dark affinity for nature filtered through his French Canadian eyes and ears.

If back in the mid '70's Tom Waits had dropped his beatnik persona and embraced, or voiced, his fears and phobias, he would have resembled Doveman on The Acrobat... just add the aforementioned Nick Drake-ian spirit and you would come close to the odd comfort and coziness on this record. A coziness sought and found all in the desire to soften the phobias and fears of a sensitive spirit.

The Acrobat is a quiet, intense, personal record that gathers the strength to say what it does through the organic playing of Bartlett's very talented band. This is late night music, music made, played, and surely destined to be listened to with eyes closed; with Doveman quietly weaving the listener the soundtrack of someone else's dreams.

Alan Williamson

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