NormanOak Born On A Black Diamond

This debut release from Impossible Shapes lead singer Chris Barth is surprisingly inventive, peaceful, and calm. With its sprawling landscape and meditative passages, images of nature and blue skies dart easily in and out of memory throughout the course of the 14-track project, which is appropriate enough for an album entirely self-recorded in the backwoods forests of Bloomington, Indiana. An avid backpacker and wayward trail guide, NormanOak weaves us through a well-worn path of the folk galaxy in the form of a glacier, a coyote and a woodpecker, all with the added bonus of never having to leave our seats. Tinges of psychedelia and sadness touch many of the tracks and with the use of a cassette recorder, four-track, several friends and the divine nature of the universe, NormanOak manages to whittle out a record that brings to mind the work of gentle like-minded artist Iron & Wine, while still keeping forth the spirit that Robert Wyatt, Donovan and Marc Bolan's Tyrannosaurus Rex took a few decades earlier. Born On A Black Diamond is a meandering coming together of the crackling leaves on a forest floor, quiet nights laying awake with the stars, the long campfires in the summer months. Quite a feat for an album recorded in the dead of winter. (Secretly Canadian)