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“Bass Drum Dream: First Impressions of the Califone Track (Four Stars out of Five)”

I’m still waiting on my Stitches CD that I ordered from our own local record store, which is crumbling, decaying and “stitched together,” much like the shining attributes of Califone’s music itself.
I believe the track is “Stitches” that you get on the website. Upon hearing it, the first thing I thought was, the guitar sound is fertile, and it grabs you in a way similar to Wilco’s “Spiders (Kidsmoke).”
Amanda Petrusich, in what I consider the greatest record review of all time, for the greatest album of all time, discussed Roots and Crowns‘ blending of the rural and urban. Roots and Crowns (2006) was a relatively rural album, as was All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, whereas Heron King Blues struck me as very urban. Likewise, in “Stitches,” the sounds are dripped closely together, and the bass drum gives an operatic feel. To my ear there’s no steel or banjo, the guitars are pure Wilco/Son Volt fare, but never with too much temporal sonic allocation, always brushed by a wilderness of percussion and chord change. Also refreshing is the typical lack of brooding or foreboding that plague so many such folk acts: however Tim Rutilli has reached his devil-may-care, top-of-the-mountain muse for the striking Roots and Crowns, it’s intact here, “Stitches” walking a balance beam between the melancholy of “Funeral Singers” and the gregarious stylistic confidence of “Polish Girls.”
But if the contrast of rural and urban is absent on “Stitches,” it’s trumped by a new, haunting variable: the distinction of solitude and company. In this track, the feeling of the latter is derived from the entrance of organ, swathing the song like an uncontrollable rush of ambulations freed from a 9-5 shift in a downtown skyscraper.
The mood of “Stitches” feels like a continuation of the theme of resignation developed on All My Friends are Funeral Singers. But instead of warlike marching, a contented tread is evinced by the steady eighth-note maracas/high hat duet here.
In light of this relaxed aspect of delivery, though, Rutilli’s voice unfortunately seems destined for the affected, as opposed to the affective. That is, to more of an extent than on prior albums, he sounds like he’s making an attempt to be a vocalist, rather than simply barking out something visible and somatic that’s burning in him. The taste is all there, though, still, as the backing vocals come in and sublimate this temporary artistic feeling of the mechanical. And once again, with these background vocals, we feel that we, ourselves, are spanning the entire country, like we can see both sides now — the busy, unforgiving big city, and the wide-open, pastoral western sector where Stitches was recorded.

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