Falling somewhere between the atmospheric country that’s found life between the glint of 2020 and 2021 (SUSS, Barry Walker Jr., Nashville Ambient Ensemble) and a more earthen scrape to the senses from the psych folk formations of Blithe Sons, Pelt, and Steven R. Smith lies the works of Old Saw. The Western Mass outfit brings together devotional spaces carved from pedal steel, banjo, fiddle, and pipe organ, with occasional percussive bells. The album trembles with life, growing its drones and tones from the soil up, crawling around outcroppings to find a space in the sun against all odds. Much like Suss, the band is able to carve vistas from the mere impression of presence. What they hold back works like the outlines of ache — a latticework that frames the natural horizon effortlessly.
Country Tropics is an album of iridescence — sunlight glare, streetlight hum, florescents flickering to life in a rec center basement, or the distant halo of a gas station signs glowing from the highway. The band captures the American stretch, the spaces in-between and the hollowness that haunts us along those routes. In a year packed with celebratory bluegrass bouts, Old Saw lets the fiddle divine its distinct sorrow. This is a record of reflection, lone and lonesome. Where Hoke or the Black Twigs found comfort in community, this is the record this year that fades the radio to static to let the nothingness linger among the soul. There are some pains that warrant watering until they grow. Old Saw are master gardeners in that respect.
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