added: 20 Jun 2012
// release date: 11 Jun 2012 // label: Self-released
reviewer: David Spencer
Tales of the ocean waves and folk music have often gone hand in hand, as the mysteries of the waters have fascinated the English for centuries. But Scrimshaw comes from across a larger sea, as New York based writer Nels Andrews takes inspiration from the fascinating stories of whale voyages in the 1800s. Often the trips would last years, with days, weeks or even months going by without a whale sighting. The album takes it name from these adventures and in some degree, its themes are influences by those whalers' tales.
In another fine collection of Americana/folk, Andrews’ third studio album steps up a little in production from previous material, for a delightfully textured set of songs. The gently intoxicating slide guitar of Starboard is the highlight and the most obvious connection to the album’s watery title. There is a further touch of class with the shuffling Mexican flavoured Barroom Bards; “Oh sweet William is it true you sung, rhyming couplets in foreign tongues”.
Not that the sea or ocean dominate the nine tracks, with New York’s overwhelming influence felt more noticeably. He wrote the songs overlooking the shipyard near Brooklyn and also worked as a taxi driver in the Big Apple before writing this album. Therefore the city’s powers work their way into tracks like Small Victories, about a small bohemian enclave being evicted from apartments above Carnegie Hall. Wisteria is a love story written from the point of view of the flower as it slowly climbs up a wall and even references New Amsterdam.
Three Hermits borrows from WB Yeats (something The Waterboys did for a whole album last year) and is more traditional sounding, while Tridents and Lost Year are far more country and thus slightly less engaging. Sung in Andrews’ soft but edgy drawl, Scrimshaw may owe its name to a time gone by but the sound is very much 2012 Americana.
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