Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trummors Roll Along Moorish Highways

Anne Cunningham and David Lerner
The magnetically mellow album Moorish Highway has been making the rounds and for good reason. The folk-rock duo consisting of Anne Cunningham and David Lerner has folded together folk rock/pop and country warmth with a small group of backing musicians to open up their compositions.

What hasn't changed is that the duo still builds its music around Cunningham's wispy vocals with Lerner lending his own for contrasting lows. They then back their harmonies with a bed of drifter-tinged instrumentals that sometimes include a 12 string, pedal steel, and harmonica.

Backing members this time out include drummer Otto Hauser (Vetiver), guitarist Kevin Barker (Joanna Newsom), bassist James Preston (Zachery Cale), and pedal steel guitarist Marc Orleans (D. Charles Speer and the Helix). And i its this accompaniment that allows the two multi-instrumentalists to focus on acoustic instrumentation, incorporating their harmonium, finger-style guitar, and close harmony dual vocals.

Moorish Highway drifts along in blissful solitude.

Although Trummors has recently relocated again — this time to Taos, New Mexico — the duo retained their Woodstock/Brooklyn roots by recording at the Drawing Room in Kingston, New York, with Justin Rice (Bishop Allen) producing and Eli Walker (Isokon in Woodstock, New York) mixing. The band credits the more earthy and a slightly psychedelic filter of the '70s to the change in scenery.

Take a song like the album opener Vigil, which came about after an unfortunate late night altercation with a highway trooper, and you'll discover an intricate understanding about seeing things in retrospect. Their first thought is that they were wronged by the cops. Their second is appreciating they weren't saints either and maybe the whole thing could have been avoided.


It's this kind of karmic wisdom that Trummors enjoys weaving into its 11-track lineup. And, in this case, knowing the back story behind the track makes the tune even more engrossing as a casually told roadside classic.

The band follows up the opener with Bogus Bruce, a track that reimagines a rolling two-chord rhythm of Belle and Sebastian to tell a folk story about a gracefully aging junk store patron. And then it picks up the tempo with a Beatlesque playfulness that falls slightly short as the vocal variation isn't as strong as the increasingly dynamic instrumentals.

The fourth track solidifies Trummors in its reverence for Gordon Lightfoot. Their cover of Early Morning Rain recasts the punchy country classic as a subdued and sorrowful country-informed folk confessional. It feels like another side of the late 60s and early 70s. Branches Divide makes for an exquisite follower.

Other standouts include Autumn Gold and Pessimistic Bluebird, which both bring in Britain's influences on the American singer-songwriter scene several decades ago. On both occasions, Trummors wears its influences proudly but perhaps not as obviously as they do on the 6-minute title track Moorish Highway. There will be more than one moment that leaves you wanting to name that tune.

While there are a couple of misses on Moorish Highway, the album makes for a memorable change of pace for anyone who appreciates something more eclectic in their musical lineup. For the duo, the addition of a backing band makes for a solid progression in their ability to capture attention and hold it as they navigate the golden years of contemplative singer-songwriter folk rock.

Morrish Highway By Trummors Drives 5.4 On The Liquid Hip Ricther Scale.

The duo recently finished up a short 8-day tour earlier in October along the West Coast and including Colorado, Arizona, and their new home of New Mexico with Bishop Allen. The name of the band, Trummor, is Swedish for drummers — an interesting choice given the landscape there matches a few opens expances in the United States too.

You can find Moorish Highway by Trummors on Amazon. You can also download the album from iTunes or pick up the vinyl release at a discount from FYE.

For future tour dates (hopefully some that won't include getting robbed) visit the band on Facebook. They post plenty of road-tripping photos and the occasional story. There an abundance of source material for the duo that has been increaisngly trying to live they way they play. Cool.