CD REVIEW: Loch Lomond - Paper the Walls
By Cyrus Rhodes
Portland's own Loch Lomond releases their 3rd CD entitled Paper the Walls in the Fall of 2007. Fronted by vocalist, songwriter and musical visionary Richey Young, Loch Lomond is to say the least an interesting and unique musical project that has anywhere between 6 to 9 members depending on what day of the week it is. Some of these members are from other Portland acts like Norfolk and Western, Horse Feathers, and Dolorean. The music has a rich Celtic flavor to it reminiscent of Scotland. The CD lists 7 members presently that contribute in many different ways. Richey Young sings but also plays guitar, bass and percussion. Other members play cello, piano, drums, fiddle, but all sing in an orchestral fashion very much like a Baroque Folk Symphony.
The musical depth of Paper the Walls is quite impressive. There is a wealth of musical verity sprinkled everywhere throughout this production. You will notice hints of bells, mandolin, guitar. piano, strings, violin, cello, theremin, whirly bells, banjo, and even a saw layered everywhere. What comes out the other end is an impressive landscape of music that fills the space well, and intrigues the listener all at the same time. The CD kicks off with Carl Sagan, a melancholy song about Young's childhood. Only Young can truly understand the meaning of some of these songs. There are some amazing ballads and melodic gems on this CD like "Scabs on This Year," “Northern, knee, trees and Lights,” "A Field Report" and "Witchy." My 2 favorite songs are towards the end; “Stripe II”, “Song in ¾”. The final piece “All your Friends are Smiling” is the perfect finale song to this CD. This musical production took alot of skill, work, and brilliance to produce. As a team these 7 members work extremely well together sharing the musical space equally, with musical accents and touches that are conservative and fit extremely well.
The gentle voice of Richey Young works, but is quite unorthodox, quirky, and extremely overly eccentric sounding. It possess alot of variety and at times seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder. At times you cannot tell what gender the voice is. This is a diverse concept but but it's really all over the place, a bit confusing to listeners are trying to identify with the artist . In his best moments Young’s bright melodic voice flutters around like a butterfly, reminiscent of Radiohead's Thom Yorke. I give Young high marks for his originality and songwriting brilliance, but his vocal eccentricity takes some time to get used to. Eventually you come to a place where you just roll with it. This eccentricity extends into the lyrical content of each song, and it's a challenge to fully comprehend the meaning. As a result some will struggle to identify with Loch Lomond and come to its center. To get Loch Lomond one must have an open mind and a pure heart. Unfortunately I don’t expect everyone has it within their capacity to appreciate Loch Lomond, or Richey Young for that matter. This will no doubt impinge on Loch Lomond's marketability. For Loch Lomond to exist on a national stage, Young's voice needs to come a bit more towards the mainstream, and thus become easier to swallow. Eccentric artists like James Blunt have pulled this off. Lomond could also license it's music into feature films for additional exposure. Despite all the above Richey Young has my utmost respect as an artist and there is no doubt he is a gifted musical savant. Young has proved himself, and I could easily see him writing and composing full orchestral pieces one day.
I give high marks to Paper the Walls for it’s deep musical depth and vocal orchestration. The strength of Loch Lomond lies in it’s wide versatility, and brilliant originality. All 7 member bring a lot to the table for the listener, so it's definitely worthy of your time. There are not many bands, projects out there quite like Loch Lomond. If you dug up this gem in your back yard you should consider it a rare find that shines with a unique brilliance that's quite uncommon. If you have an open mind, and a pure heart you need to give Paper the Walls at least 36 minutes of your time. Trust me you’ll be coming back for more.
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