Knotworking – Notes Left Out

Notes Left Out

Knotworking’s Edward Gorch has a few moments of really fine singer-songwriter moves on Notes Left Out. Even when a song sinks under its own lofty aspirations, he gets off at least a few thoughtful lines that engage you. The over-stated country twang becomes oppressive by the disc’s end and may alienate listeners tired of alt-country groups writing songs about experiences they’ve probably never had. Still, if you buy into the mood and stay with album, it offers some really worthwhile moments.
For instance, the way Gorch squeezes syllables on “Central Bridge” is its own reward. He makes “There’s a thousand tiny spotlights that could serve as stars” roll of the tongue beautifully. It’s a line that would make Adam Duritz proud, and that’s meant as a compliment. The song is loaded with quiet observations, and for three minutes, before it breaks into a guitar solo right out of “Little Pink Houses,” it’s the disc’s best song. “Blankets” lulls along nicely; it’s a great opener and raises hopes that the rest of the album only occasionally lives up to. “Lungs filled with water cannot offer a song of departure” is a good rhyme and a great image. When the subject matter and tone stay away from grand declarations, the resulting effect is much better.
“Manuel” develops into fine ballad, like a more orchestrated version of a song that may have been on Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album. The band makes like a countrified version of Low on “Imbecile Smile.” The highlight of that song and the album is the great refrain, “I’ll go home and count all the tiles stretching out from my room to the door.” Comparisons to Nick Drake seem pretty obvious as well, but only one song really warrants it. “Castle,” with its stark title and chorus of “We’re not so young” seems to be the closet to Drake. The band seems to owe more to Vic Chestnutt. Gorch has a wounded little voice reminscent of Chestnutt’s or Kurt Wagner from Lambchop. Knotworking lack the great self-deprecating humor that keeps the music of both Chestnutt and Lambchop from being buried by the moods they create, though.
At its most overly serious, the songs are reminiscent of the mid-80’s singer-songwriter revival. “Lawn Plastic Santa,” the story of a welfare family told in the first person, could have been on Tracy Chapman’s first album. Gorch sings “Lord I know this is the land of plenty where we throw away more than what we need” without a touch of irony, which would almost be noble if it wasn’t so over-dramatic. It’s also reminiscent of Patty Griffin’s “Poor Man’s House,” though her sometimes overly wrought lines are saved by her powerful voice. In fact, Knotworking invite lots of comparisons, and that’s a big part of the problem. They’re obviously talented enough to find their own style, so it may be wise for them to push harder to develop a sound not so easily pigeonholed. If they do, and their songwriting continues to develop, they’ll be a band worth watching.