2009′s road trip soundtrack

The Cave Singers - Welcome Joy
Their name suggests confinement, but the Cave Singers‘ music is anything but claustrophobic. The group mixes folk and backwoods blues into a gorgeous roots rock blend that evokes the seemingly endless highways and expansive plains of Middle America. Of course, the group actually hails from Seattle, not Middle America, but there’s no denying the shimmering, countrified guitars and singer Pete Quirk’s world-weary rasp.

Welcome Joy, the Cave Singers’ second album, manages to achieve timelessness while completely avoiding the clichés associated with roots music: there’s no two-step basslines or twelve bar patterns here. Its atmosphere is similar to Heartbreaker-era Ryan Adams, although the disc is less easily pigeonholed as alt. country. With its gritty electric riffs and Quirk’s throaty shouting, “At the Cut” could could pass for hard rock if only it had a harder-hitting rhythm section. The guitar twang on “Shrine” sounds almost like a sitar, creating a psychedelic rock vibe that is complimented by gently pulsing feedback and pattering bongo percussion.

mp3: “At the Cut”

These stylistic forays may sound strange on paper, but they make sense within the context of the album. Welcome Joy is collection that is best experienced from beginning to end; there’s isn’t a dud to found, but neither is there a stand-out single or an unforgettable chorus. The album’s gifts are in the subtleties: the wheezing harmonica on “Leap” or the harmonized guitar licks of “I Don’t Mind.” Even if it doesn’t make you want to sing along at the top of your lungs, 2009 isn’t likely to produce a better road trip album than this.

Welcome Joy is out now via Matador.
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