Album of the Week: Acoustic at the Ryman by Band of Horses

Artist: Acoustic at the Ryman

Year: 2014

Details: 10 songs, 39 minutes

Who’s Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

This week’s choice confirms to me why this weekly practice of listening and commenting on a single album is such a good idea. Had I listened to Band of Horses as a single go-through, I would, more likely than not, passed it by without much thought. This is especially so, in that we listened to the dialed back acoustic versions of their songs. Dan gives Band of Horses’ Acoustic at the Ryman a lashing over at Gone Mild. After reading his review, I had to go back and listen for some of the awfulness that he mentions, and I cannot find them.

Every time I listened to the album this week, I liked it more. I caught more of the words. I paid more attention to the instruments. I appreciated the harmonies. 

I was not familiar with this group at all before this week. There were a couple songs that sounded slightly familiar, but I can’t even claim that for sure. As a whole, they remind me a great deal of the Avett Brothers. Their music seems rooted in the personal reflections, which pulls my singer/songwriter loving heartstrings. 

What I did not get from this album is how these guys can rock. The acoustic version of The Funeral is quiet and sorrowful. The original version opens up similarly quiet, but it moves into a cymbal banging, organ hammering, guitarfest. 

So I guess it begs the question, why? If the concept of the song is the sound monster, why dial it back? I can still hear Dan hating on Eric Clapton’s unplugged version of Layla. He could not find a place in his heart for it. I, on the other hand, liked it. For this album, the transition for me went the other way. A beautiful, quiet song got spirit kicked into it, when I went to look at other versions. I have room in my auditory soul for different versions of songs, and I think that it has to be fun for the artists to mix it up. I wonder what the general consensus was for the majority of fans who attended the concert at the Ryman where this album was recorded? If I am to take Dan’s viewpoint, there would have been a lot of giggling. I tend to believe the audience ate it up.

To just take The Funeral as an example, the rocking version starts with the guitar picking out the notes, while the acoustic version uses the piano. There is no organ blaring and definitely no cymbal crashes. The acoustic does have a wonderous standup bass line that I first thought was a tuba. That would have been lost in the thunder of the original version. As a musician, to be able to conceptualize a single song in two very different ways, must be fun. In fact, on the album, as they are finishing Funeral, you hear Ben Bridwell, the lead singer of the band say, “that was fun.” 

The other very sweet thing about this album is how genuinely nicely he thanks the crowd after songs. There is an aw shucks quality to it that is endearing. At least that part, Dan and I can agree upon.

Next up: Teeth Dreams by The Hold Steady.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s