BY Eric HillPublished Jun 3, 2008

Having missed last year’s expanded re-release of Palo Santo, Shearwater’s love letter to Nico, the shock delivered by their current sound sent me to their earlier back catalogue to see if I might have missed something. Jonathan Meiburg’s vocals were always as far-ranging and expressive as a cowboy Jeff Buckley, but in the beginning he shared vocal duties with Will Sheff (of Okkervil River, a band Meiburg also held a spot in) and now runs things solo. If the vocal sound remains (almost) the same, that can’t be said for the music. Early works had a definite southwestern twang, whereas Rook is not geographically rooted at all. Stately piano carries the sombre torch of period Bowie or Brian Eno and marches alongside vintage Fairport Convention folk themes that swell proudly at all the right moments. Perhaps it is this new European tint that lends Meiburg’s vocal shades of Nick Drake and Richard Thompson, making for a perfect blend of humbleness and bombast. Despite its brief (under 40 minute) running time, it is a ridiculously rich and rewarding affair.
(Matador Records)

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