Published Jan 29, 2020Armed with his "Banjotron 5000," Mike Savino — also known as Tall Tall Trees — is changing the way you perceive the banjo. If you're imagining stripped-back, plucked-out retro country melodies, think again. In order to create the sound he dubs "cosmic country," the Long Island musician needed to be inventive — that's when his custom-built banjo setup came in.
A Wave of Golden Things follows 2017's layered and dreamy Freedays, but pulls back on the complex layering that fuelled that record in order to emphasize songwriting and smooth-sliding vocals. "Giving up on my expectations," he sings on "Expectations," "Let them go and see where it takes us." Optimistic spirit bounces along sprightly rhythms and genre-swooning melodies.
Take, for example, the blue-sky joy of "The Wind, She Whispers," or the organic, bouncing presence of "Happy Birthday in Jail." The concept of running away from responsibilities and losing track of the days becomes so liberating, it demands the triumph of horns. These are songs that celebrate playfulness and space, perhaps brought to fruition by the mobile recording rig Savino set up on a hemp farm in the Appalachian mountains to record the album.
In turns, A Wave of Golden Things moves from grooving to sweet to jazzy. There are few confines here — a helium balloon tethered by twine of vocals. Whether Savino is whistling a sweet ditty on "Seven Shades of Blues" or pulling whiskey and twang into "A Number of Signs," his joy in experimentation is clear — as is an appreciation for instrumental versatility. (Joyful Noise)