Strugglers

Acuarela has managed to put out some outstanding folk/Americana releases despite the fact they are based in Spain. The Strugglers are primarily the work of Carrboro, NC native Randy Bickford and a mixed cast of musical comrades. Bickford’s sombre voice might have the immediate resonance of Smog’s Bill Callahan or even Eddie Vedder, but it also emotes the fragility heard in artists like Will Oldham. This, their third full release, touches on the familiar melancholic territory of loss, frustration, and pain. This is not a happy-go-lucky record by a long stretch, but the rich instrumentation and smooth, dreamy production courtesy of Jerry Kee make it work even if you don’t feel like being brought down. It’s not surprising he has played with artists like the Mountain Goats and Magnolia Electric Co., since they do share the same passion for thoughtful, deeply personal story-based songs that really draw the listener in deep. It’s not easy to write a song called "Necrophilia” and make it touch the heartstrings, but Bickford manages it with ease. The nine songs on the album are not in any rush, often clocking in over five to six minutes. "The Cascade Range” is the only real place the tempo picks up, and serves as a nice bridge to a song as beautiful as "I Tried to Repair,” which is a real highlight. This is an accomplished, heartfelt and wonderful album.