Rainstick Cowbell – Hand over the Heart
It’s funny how music can change. It’s so malleable; you could hear it in one setting and hate it, vowing to never again let such filth invade your eardrums again. I’m referring to sonic pop by the way. Then, you could hear it at a different time, in a different situation, a different artist and see something in it that you never considered. It’s not just to down to peer pressure, either. You could be listening to a song on repeat in the morning that by night time you can’t stand. Basically, music isn’t just a meal in itself, to really enjoy it you need to be in the right frame of mind, as well as a situation where you can enjoy it.
When I turned on Hand over the Heart by Portland based singer-songwriter Scott Arbogast a/k/a Rainstick Cowbell, I actually did not expect what I heard. I probably wasn’t giving him the best chance for success as I must be honest. Some artists are a bit over the top about their songwriting. It’s just feels as if they are selling something under a false pretence lacking a real and genuine sense of musical inspiration. I mean give me something I can feel! Today it feels like many artists out there are going through the motions and how appropriate none of it provides real inspiration. Where am I going with his? None of the above applies to Rainstick Cowbell and his music. I was sold on him during the first few seconds of (Uncle Merv comes home to try to save the farm) Yes the music is as unique as the song titles. I might add as I drifted in and out of uncomfortable sleep, hazy static and sporadic bursts of music punctuated my dreams I realized this man believes and feels every stroke, every note, every song he played. I played this CD probably 4 times and despite the brutal sludgy of the Brooklyn traffic there was something on many of this 11 track collection that soothed my inner skepticism. On the second listen, slightly more conscious this time, I began to pick out the sounds somewhere between Lou Reed, The The, A.A Bondy, Gregory Alan Isakov,
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Grouper and Chris Bathgate. Bending elements of catchy Alternative Rock, sad but true folk and powerful singer-songwriter one can’t help but fall madly in love with songs like (he Dramatic Effects of Alcohol Poisoning) and (From the West, Breath of Zephyr). This is the perfect CD it relax and drift in and out of sleep with. This is a compliment as Arbogast manages to transcend space and time. No matter what state of mind you’re in all these tracks will make a lasting impression on you. This CD will not go in my “reviewed pile” rather it will go on my I-POD indefinitely. To me it’s like one big long acid trip.
Some aspects of the songwriting are a bit repetitive. Arbogast needs to write and deliver melodies that flow a little better and aren’t so choppy. The songs structure is rather hard to follow because it’s not partitioned well. Of course this is a subjective art form. The solitary mix works and the somewhat dreamy precision and concentrated themes meshed with Arbogast’s vocal presence makes for some top quality music. Like I mentioned I was sold on Rainstick Cowbell during the first few songs and I kept waiting for a blemish or disappointing song to emerge – which never happened through to the end. Rainstick Cowbell is for real and it’s about time. It’s these types of artists that make it all the way to the top of our hearts – because they are themselves.
– Ryan Crowley