Arbouretum: Coming Out of the Fog (Thrill Jockey)

Led by founder, songwriter, vocalist and guitar player Dave Heumann, Baltimore's Arbouretum has often been described as folk rock, soul-blues, etc. These are easy terms to throw around, but they don't really convey what the band actually sounds like.

The band's newest album, Coming Out of the Fog does indeed fit the above descriptions, with Arbouretum picking up exactly where they left off in their previous two albums. Unfortunately, it's just too much of the same old formula.

While Heumann deserves credit for placing his vocals at the forefront of the mix, ultimately they are just too dominant. It's nearly impossible to ignore the distinct likeness that it has to '70s radio folk gods like Gordon Lightfoot and Mickey Newbury. And it tends to distract the listener from Heumann's natural strengths as a singer and writer.

The remaining three members create a foundation (drums, bass, guitar) for Heumann's voice to flourish. The relentless and repetitive floor tom-snare drum, bass and distortion-laden guitar patterns come off as a sort of trudging Americana version of noise acts like Swans. This creates ample space for Heumann's vocals and guitar solos to stretch out for as long as necessary.

Of the eight tracks on Coming Out, none really stand out. Rather, they tend to feel like separate parts of the same song.

This would be an interesting approach if it were merely a phase in the band's career. Unfortunately, Arbouretum are in a bit of a folk-rock rut and, thus, not out of the fog quite yet. Here's hoping they work their heavy grooves into newer territory next time around.

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