Jul 2, 2008

All We Could Do Was Sing-Port O'Brien

These days Port O'Brien are making quite a name for themselves. They have just arrived with a new album and it is quite good. Actually, very good. It would seem that this band from California, sometimes Alaska, is new on the scene and in someways they are. Well, "All We Could Was Sing" could be seen as a fresh beginning. This is their first studio recorded album and their first to get major distribution. Which is a good thing, because Port O'Brien write very good songs. But first a brief history. Port O'Brien began with Van Pierszalowski, soon after joined by Cambria Goodwin. They wrote songs in Oakland, California, with Van leaving each summer to work on his father's fishing boat off Alaska. During this time they self released an LP and an EP. Both were very good and to my knowledge, out of print. Thankfully the band, now numbering five, released an album in 2007, "The Wind and The Swell" which put those two releases on the one easy album. This album is well worth getting and is available at American Dust Records. So, you still with me. Good.

Let the 2008 story begin. The band recorded this album in San Francisco at the acclaimed Tiny Telephone Studios and also the Pan American Recording Studios. From the early days of quite acoustic, rustic sounds the band has advanced to a more dynamic, sweeping sound. There are lush string arrangements, careening guitars, lots of percussion and thrusting vocals. It all adds up to a grand tapestry of sound, a melting pot of folk and country and rock. The album comprises 13 songs and of these, four have been re-recorded for the album. The notable being the opening track "I Woke Up Today", which is on its third and most rousing reincarnation. It is a whirlwind of shouted vocals and crashing percussion, a song perfectly suited to being shouted with at live shows. The second song is one that takes up the main theme of the album. That of the sea and the people that work it. "Stuck On A Boat" is a wistful lament about the loneliness of deep sea fishing. Its melancholic nature is quite infectious. The theme continues with "Fisherman's Son", a tale of fishing in Alaska that features some lovely acoustic work. "Don't Take My Advice" is a good advertisement for Van's plaintive vocal, its doleful wail sure to find a place in anyone's heart. The fiery "Pigeon Hold" takes it up a notch, proving this band can rock as well as anyone, one not to be placed in any hole of a bird variety. My clear winner on the album though is "The Rooftop Song", a previously recorded number, which features glorious harmonies, some crunching guitar and a positively swinging rhythm, very good indeed. This is a album of plentiful variety, there is even a protest song, "Valdez". It is a good combination of sweet melodies, pleasant acoustics, gnashing guitars and lively percussion. An album straddling the land and the sea. Music grown from the earth we walk on and the sea we traverse. Timely folk music for the year 2008.

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