Monday, January 6, 2014

The Lowest Pair - 36 Cents

Hailing from two separate locations (Kendl Winter hails from Olympia, WA while Palmer T. Lee calls the Upper Midwest of Minnesota home), these two banjo pickin' performers joined forces for a debut album where the duo's love of the instrument is the primary focus.

The pair recently finished up a tour that took them to such familiar places like Decorah, Iowa and Winona, Minnesota - locales which mean nothing to the vast majority of you, but for an Iowa Boy like me, it appears that the two are concentrating on artist-friendly communities where the arts are preserved, respected, and still supported.

Hell, you can still hit a few polkas around the Decorah area and see some great examples of the tradition seemingly escaping the modern world's digital grasp, and that's a good thing, in my mind.

As are The Lowest Pair, a duo so committed to their Midwestern take on old time Hillbilly music that they kick off their debut with none other than "Oh Suzanna," a tactic that admittedly had me fighting a cynical urge to dismiss the release as too authentic.

Because the Midwest - hell, probably any rural setting has it - a very healthy army of hometown amateurs who can be called upon to recreate their old Nordic music or C & W standards for the benefit of their churches or other community event. It's the kind of music that sets the scene, but does little to warrant further attention due to the fact that the efforts are clearly resulting from amateur hands.

Not The Lowest Pair. Winter and Lee have enough chops to consider them in a very professional setting and things start to pick up after you head to Alabama with a banjo on your knee.

Their voices fit together well, with an feeling of a long time collaboration while the music spells a very real sense of spontaneity. Winter projects a bit of Emmylou which fits nicely against Lee's earthy delivery. Arrangements are limited to the pair's fingerpicking, occasionally supplemented against an atmospheric guitar swells and fiddles.

The 36 Cents is blessed with an excellent second-half featuring more detailed character studies and topics of sorrow. When Winter declares how she'll be "easily replaced" on "Movin' On," she spends the rest of the verses making sure her memory hangs around her former lover for some time.

And the same can be said for 36 Cents, a record that could easily be seen as another rural route relic, but like any lucky find you may obtain in an antique store, it grows exponentially in value the longer you spend with it.

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