Archer Prewitt: Wilderness

Archer Prewitt: Wilderness (Thrill Jockey)
Most people are not aware that, in addition to his roles as a superlative musician, singer, and songwriter, Archer Prewitt is also an outstanding visual artist (example: he did the design and layout for the case). He has achieved success in both his solo career and as a member of The Sea and Cake. Having an embarrassment of talents might make a fellow self-consciously cocky, or even arrogant, but they’ve affected Prewitt’s ego in the opposite direction. He is as modest and unpretentious a guy as you’d ever want to meet, and his new CD Wilderness reflects a quiet appreciation of the gifts with which he has been blessed.

Wilderness opens with the sounds of innocence—tinkling chimes, a soft guitar, a clear voice that tells the story of doomed survival after the fall. In “Way of the Sun,” he asks her to “Hold still until they pass by/No don’t let them see you/They’ll take what’s left of our lives.” Though the cause of the situation is not clear, the lovers are on the run from what feels like a Big Brother tracker, complete with hovering helicopter. The sound hearkens back to an earlier musical age, this impression supported by an unmistakable early-Beatles persuasion. His voice even recalls a young McCartney in this song—in syntax if not actually ripe with the British accent.
In fact, several of the pieces on this 11-song CD have a mythic quality, where the skies are darkened and nature itself comes undone by the desecrations of man. The final song of the playlist, which is also the title song, features a fairytale heroine who must outwit or escape the cynical evildoers of the wilderness.

Life is fodder for songwriters, and Prewitt has encountered some big life markers in recent years—his marriage, the death of his father (to whom he dedicates this work). Through orchestration and words, his songs lead us down the path he has followed. The overall signature is moody/folksy, with some of the pieces being tinged with a country twang. There is a cross-over dreaminess from The Sea and Cake association, but his solo work has ripened with the maturity of his many years in the field. Wilderness somehow draws you in without making you aware of it. Every song is a gem, but not all of them flash with fire. Some of them are pearls that shimmer softly; the longer you wear them, the brighter their lustre.

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