Ever since Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon did such a fine job as Johnny Cash and June Carter in Walk the Line, I’ve been infatuated with great male-female duets (is there a greater creator of sexual tension in film than their “Time’s a Wastin’”?). There’s something thrilling about the right harmony of opposite-sex voices, the meaning and emotion they can convey, the balance of power and grace.
|Released by Gypsy Tailwind | with Will Daily & the Rivals | at the Big Easy, in Portland | May 23|
Locally, Garrett and Sirii Soucy are the standard, in Tree by Leaf, followed closely by Sara Cox and Nate Schrock, back when they co-inhabited the Coming Grass. Lately, the new GFAC disc had Lauren Sullivan and Adam Gardner’s “Lovesick,” which induced a recollection of Darien Brahms and Spencer Albee punctuating GFAC, Vol. 2 with “All this Time.”
Now the new Gypsy Tailwind, pairing former Goud’s Thumb frontman Dan Connor with new find Anna Lombard, can run shivers right up your spine with two voices that were invented for one another.
If only Lombard and Connor sang together more often.
“The Long Drive Home from Montreal,” off their debut Halo Sessions, is damn near mind-blowing in its melancholic lilt. Connor opens with a finger-picked guitar and a simple bassline, his voice at its most tender — “I could her you laughing above the wind” — for an extended first verse, then is joined in a transcendent chorus: “Won’t you wait, wait for me, wait for me/I’m driving home to see you.” And they leave a full two measures before that final line, representing all the ache of the wait.
On the rockabilly/bluegrass stomp “Two and One,” Lombard takes the lead from the outset, Connor saying volumes with an affirming “mmm-mmm.” You can just see them side by side, sharing a mic, eyes locked.
Yet there are songs here where we don’t even hear from one or the other at all. Why?
“Alabama” is a nice country shuffle, but Lombard accompanies herself in doubled vocals, and Connor’s grounding voice could have helped. “Dandelion” is a great mix of indie urgency and alt-country sentiment — “You’re looking like hell now/Yeah you’re living like a dog” — with a cool dobro line from Carter Logan, but Connor’s endearing falsetto reach calls out for Lombard’s crystalline delivery. And Lombard seems almost too clean on her solo “You’ve Never Seen My Love,” which has a nice piano part, but comes off a little American Idol.
Maybe it’s just that they spoiled us with the opening “So Lonely,” which starts off like a more organic version of Beck’s “Lost Cause,” imbued with the same desperate heartbreak in Connor’s voice. When Lombard in the finish echoes McCartney’s “Something” with her “I don’t want to lose you now/You know I believe in how,” it’s impossible not to pick out that one word change, substituting her feminine “lose” for the Beatles’ “leave.”
It resonates all the more after the chemistry-laden preceding verses.
From its title to its song mix, this nine-song album feels like what used to be a demo, and we can only hope this is just the beginning of a great collaboration, where the band develop an identity based on that chemistry. It’s a rare and beautiful thing.
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