Norfolk and Western – Winter Farewell

Norfolk and Western
Winter Farewell

The meaning of a record title seems easily misunderstood, but curious enough that the release from Portland, Oregon’s Norfolk & Western should be titled Winter Farewell. It seems appropriate that the first song’s title “All The Town’s Near Boston” should open what has been today’s accompanying soundtrack for a classic New England spring day complete with random yard work, open-window breezes, Sunday afternoon beer, and the early start of summer’s smoking grill. No, this isn’t an entirely feel-good album of summer songs … this is more the type of musical reverie reserved for those guys with monikers like Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billie, Papa M, or Songs: Ohia. Add one Adam Selzer to that highbrow songwriter/singer list, for he is the man behind Winter Farewell and two previous Norfolk & Western full-length releases titled A Collection Of and Centralia.
And like Oldham, Pajo, or Molina, Selzer has arranged a talented list of musicians to help him shape and form songs that have campfire familiarity but are entirely detailed with string arrangements, pedal steel, found sounds, or banjo. Since he owns Type Foundry Recording, now in Portland, Oregon, this release’s liner notes and an accompanying bio sheet give the listener little, recording “f.y.i’s” and a declaration that the album was recorded on an analog 16-track 1″ tape machine. What are relatively minor details on paper are the major details to an album that has carefully observed song-craft. It also doesn’t hurt that the artwork and Firefly Press packaging are the indie-guild markings of a limited edition release you’ll want to hang on to.
Following the album’s already mentioned opening song, “Final Gratitude” introduces us to the vocal accompaniment of Rachel Blumberg whose other talent for keeping rhythm on drums compliments other songs. “I’m so curious to see your reaction / and placing all your faith inside your tiny apartment / and waiting patiently for the promised enlargement,” sing Adam and Rachel in unison. It’s so easy to fall for the boy/girl vocal, but a similar trap will capture the listener when they hear Richard Buckner offer up his voice alongside Adam’s in “The Evergreen.” Buckner’s voice works with harmonica, pedal steel, and distorted guitar, and somewhere Howe Gelb of Giant Sand has to be smiling. Offering even fuller arrangement in the fourth song “Local Posts,” Norfolk & Western is a vibraphone, guitar, drums, bass, banjo, pedal steel, and cello assemblage of competent musicians spontaneously creating song.
The sun has set; the dishes are done; the beer is not yet gone; and Norfolk & Western provide simple songs and melodies for life’s easier moments.