Ned Collette’s excellent 2018 album Old Chestnut is an ambitious, evocative song cycle that was built on years of honing a nuanced and experimental vision of folk. Though it feels fully formed, the bones of Old Chestnut were years in the making and some of the first roots that hold sprung through towards his open-armed vision of folk took hold on 2006’s Jokes & Trials. Sixteen years after it first surfaced on Aussie imprint Dot Dash, Feeding Tube and Sophomore Lounge are putting the album on vinyl, a testament to its enduring strength. The record, while not as enveloping as Collette’s later works, is still an engrossing listen, a folk record that pushed past standard hallmarks of its time.
While his U.S. contemporaries were diving deep into psychedelic-folk wells Collette was proving that conceptual vastness, ambitious production, and some inspired instrumentation could produce some of the same effects without sacrificing the nagging pop earworms dug in below the surface. With a mind on Jim O’Rourke’s sprawling sense of what folk could be and Van Dyke Parks’ history of pushing production into gorgeously intricate dioramas of song, Collette created a collection of songs that bore the weight of melancholy with grace, twining their tops and tails between songs and feeling like the kind of lost gem I’m always searching for among the stacks.
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