What does it sound like?:
Gregory Alan Isakov is a thoroughly modern day singer-songwriter. There is something of the wandering minstrel in him, born in South Africa, raised in Philadelphia and now settled in Colorado. He is also a market gardener, spending long days under a panoramic sky, keeping a helpless, watchful eye on the vagaries of the weather. His products include medical cannabis. In the evenings he sits in a recording studio in his barn creating music. Typically, as with many a farmer, his music is imbued with melancholy, a sense of being a tiny, insignificant speck in an enormous universe.
He is thoroughly modern in that he doesn’t shift many physical units. This is his seventh album but the total sales of all his others combined is less than 400,000. However, two of his songs have featured in adverts, six have concluded various episodes of American TV series, Second Chances has been used no less than three times in TV shows and twice in movies, and he regularly appears in Playlists, usually for sad moods, attracting millions of plays. He also tours regularly.
Evening Machines, true to form, proceeds at a quiet pace in a minor key over most of the twelve tracks. The lyrics depict Isakov in somber mood under those big skies, contemplating his past and his present, pondering regret and loss. Caves threatens to get funky, Powder flexes some muscle, Too Far Away could be a hymn with its choir-like crescendo and Southern Star actually manages a gentle waltz. The melodies do no more than undulate and there is nothing approaching a big chorus. Nevertheless, Evening Machines is enthralling. It is exquisitely recorded, every detail placed with absolute precision. The lyrical themes may be unsettling but the music is warm and consoling. He has clearly benefited from his experience producing an album of orchestrated versions of his songs with The Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The guitar and banjo strings sound as though they are made of silk, the pedal steel from silver. These are the instruments of Americana blended with the sound of a string quartet so well that the join is inaudible.
As an album, it hangs together well with a simplicity of tone and style befitting a man who is, at heart, an old-fashioned romantic. It just needs a bit of judicious pruning in order to hold attention for its full length. Individual songs are ripe for TV and Playlist use. Expect both physical and virtual sales to increase.
What does it all *mean*?
It’s great to hear a young man (aged 38) forging a career in the music industry of the 21st Century still believing in making albums.
Goes well with…
A luxuriant warm bath after a weary day’s toil.
Might suit people who like…
Beautifully played and recorded music.