Old Canes – Early Morning Hymns

Old Canes
Early Morning Hymns

Old Canes is an acoustic folk-rock band made up mainly of Appleseed Cast frontman Chris Crisci on guitar and vocals, Jordan Geiger on assorted instruments,and Nate Jr. from Casket Lottery on drums. I downloaded demo versions of two of these songs last year around the same time that Appleseed Cast’s Two Conversations record came out. I thought that those songs were pretty good but sounded like they could use some work, and that is what seems to have happened between the demo and the album.

Early Morning Hymns starts with an ambient intro of strange noise that leads one to think of Crisci’s other band for about five seconds before “Blue Eleanor” starts. This song seems to be about a failed relationship much like some of Two Conversations, but surprisingly the songwriting is stronger here. “Taxi on Vermont” is extremely catchy and upbeat, with Crisci strumming fast over shouted verses filled with scattered drumbeats and even a trumpet. “Both Falling Bright” has been slowed down from the version that I previously heard, and it only adds to the song’s emotional weight. This is one of the few moments that could remind listeners of Appleseed Cast because the melody is kind of drawn out and the guitar part is noodly and loose yet still retains a sense of structure.

The middle of Early Morning Hymns is made up of little vignettes of characters from everyday life. “Then Go On” details the confrontation of two lovers with one being dragged away in handcuffs at the end. “Face It” is just what the title implies, a wake-up call to where you are as opposed to where you want to be. There are a few other songs here such as the title track, “The Song Was Right,” “Life is Grand,” and “One Day,” but I can’t tell you about how sweet they all are; instead you should check it out for yourself.

Alas we come to the end of the record with “7th Fret Closer,” and it seems to arrive so soon. This is probably my favorite song on the whole record because it kind of sounds like the Appleseed Cast song “Rooms and Gardens” from Low Level Owl Vol. 2 but more compact and stripped to the bare essentials of what a song like that is really built upon. It is a mini epic that lasts only four minutes. The guitar intro is sublimely beautiful and intricate; the vocals sound distant and sleepy. Two minutes into the song, the vocals drop out and bells ring out as the guitar steadliy builds up around a trumpet line. The tempo becomes faster and faster as it races to the closing drum beat. Absolutely stunning.

Early Morning Hymns is the work of an excellent songsmith finally given the chance to prove that he doesn’t always need a lush backdrop of chiming guitars and thunderous drums to make a perfect record. This is Crisci’s best work since Low Level Owl, which is still my favorite record ever right next to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Everything about this record is flawless. The recording is great but not overproduced and sounds even better considering that it was done on equipment a couple of decades old.

Considering that this is just a side project, I was expecting far less than what I got when I purchased this record. If you’ve been looking for what would be the perfect follow-up to Low Level Owl or even a companion piece to Two Conversations then look no further. If you’ve been searching for something remarkable in a less-than-stellar year of new releases, here it is. Definitely in my top-three records of the year so far.