Friday, July 24, 2009

Vetiver: Things of the Past and Present

So far this blog has been solidly dedicated to older tunes from the 60s and 70s mostly, with the exception of Arthur Russell and some later John Martyn cuts. This is not because I'm some music purist that believese that only the old stuff is good (though I'm guilty of that 75% of the time), but because I spend most of my energy digging backwards rather than in the present. So usually when I find something new it's by accident, like what happened with Vetiver.

For the last two years I've been pretty solidly obsessed with Ronnie Lane of the (Small) Faces. One evening, hanging out with my friend Matt on a visit to NYC I was playing a mix that included Ronnie Lane's cover of D. Adam's "Roll On Babe." Matt said something like, "Vetiver's awesome," to which I gave him a confused look, explaining that we were listening to Ronnie Lane. He explained that Vetiver covered this song on one of their albums, to which I was skeptical and intrigued. He ripped me a copy and since then I have been slowly and irreversably falling in love with Vetiver. What I find interesting is that had it not been for their cover of a song I already loved I probably wouldn't have bothered to dig deeper, but their commitment to an obscure, yet wonderful song like "Roll On Babe" meant that we were kinda in on the same deliciously underappreciated secret.

I committed to purchase the album with that song, "Thing of the Past", on vinyl and absorbed the band's subdued and understated tone. At first it didn't really penetrate my armor of skepticism, but by the third or fourth listen I really began to appreciate the quirky selections - all the songs on that album are covers of relatively obscure folksy singer-songwriters, a style that is clearly the foremost influence on the band - and the sensitive treatment the band gives each piece of music, demonstrating a serious amount of respect for the source material. Come to think of it, that's one of the reasons I like them, because they seem to have a clear sense of where they sit and what they're trying to do, because they know what came before and what elements to cherry pick and what dated sounds or themes to leave on the rehearsal space floor.

More recently I picked up their newest one, "Tight Knit" and then there was no going back. This album is all originals (I think) and is their strongest release to date, though I still haven't gotten around to pick up their first one. The songs have a wider emotional range that extend from giddy "Everyday" to nostalgic "Rolling Sea" to ethereal "At the Forest's edge" as opposed to most of the previous albums that refused to budge too far from warm and melancholic nostalgia. Seeing as I got into the group because of a cover, I have included that one and another perfect surprise, finding out they also covered my favorite Lindsey Buckingham Fleetwood Mac song, "Save Me a Place." I rounded it out with an original, "Rolling Sea" from the newest album.

Now I just can't wait to check them out live. They're a local band I've been told, though they've been on tour since I discovered them, but I hear they're coming back in a couple months . . .

Vetiver - Roll On Babe

Vetiver - Save Me a Place

Vetiver - Rolling Sea

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