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Mike Lorenz & the Witherbees: Mike Lorenz & the Witherbees

Geno Thackara By

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File Mike Lorenz and the Witherbees under folk, jazz or film soundtrack and they will have enough of the right sound not to seem terribly out of place. Okay, this moody debut isn't actually a soundtrack, but there is no reason why it shouldn't be if the right noir mind-bender were to come along. The quartet's musical blend is a thoughtful one, concerned much more with feel than genre; even when these songs are straightforward at heart, the arrangements rarely zig or zag quite the way one would first expect.

It is not usual for a jazzy outfit to open by covering someone like Corinne Bailey Rae, for instance, much less make time for a soothing double-bass solo in the middle. Most tracks here walk a similar line between familiar and enticingly odd. With a simple guitar-trio- plus-voice format and a feel for skewed listenability, songs from the Magnetic Fields or Paul McCartney slot alongside the group's originals as part of the same obscure daydream.

Jacqui Armbruster sings with equal parts simple heart and cabaret mystery, like a coffeehouse folkie who has wandered into a free experimental jam by accident and decided to just roll with it. Her lines meander without needing to settle into obvious catchy forms, much like the poly-toned shadings of Lorenz's guitar throughout. The leader is in constant flux here, strumming fuzzy slash chords in some spots and weaving a chiming cocoon of backwards-sounding reverb in others.

With his own "Cut & Paste," the treatment is a haze of guitar and smoky viola; the ersatz folk ballad "Grand Canyon" floats Armbruster's voice over a virtual canyon of echo. "Waterfalls" touches vaguely on light blues, while "Where Do I Begin?" somehow wanders from gospel hymn to clattering tumble-down-the-stairs chaos. Through it all, Mike Lorenz and the Witherbees flows in a way that always feels naturally random (or perhaps randomly natural). It's hard to predict what's around each bend, though the surprises only make the trip more interesting to repeat.

Track Listing: Are You Here?; Lilac (interlude); Copy & Paste; Grand Canyon; Waterfalls; Sycamore Trees; Lilac; Blind Willie; Home; Where Do I Begin?.

Personnel: Mike Lorenz, guitar; Jacqui Armbruster, viola/vocals; Justin Sekelewski, bass; Zach Martin, drums.

Title: Mike Lorenz & the Witherbees | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Self Produced

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