Fernwood – “Arcadia” (Fernwood/WhiteHorse One Music 2015, CD/LP/DL)

Fernwood are the acoustic duo of Todd Montgomery and Djam Karet’s Gayle Ellett and Arcadia is their third album since forming in 2006. Check out the list of instruments employed by these guys: Greek, Irish and slide bouzouki, sitar, dilruba, charango, tanpura, surmandal, rhodes, harmonium, ruan, dobro, upright bass, guitar, piano, tenor ukulele, bells/chimes, moog, mellotron, organ, electric guitar, field recordings, banjo, baritone guitar, mandolin, violin, bowed guitar, EBow, electric mandola, and baritone electric guitar… damn!

The core theme is two guys with an arsenal of acoustic instruments performing beautifully composed, lyrically melodic, image inducing instrumentals. I love the subtle blend of styles and instrumentation which makes the music, on a certain level, simple and accessible to all, yet elusively complex. We have a bouncy mixture of Americana and traditional Italian restaurant serenade, accented with a droning sitar undertone. There’s a Classical tinged blend of Greek wedding celebration and filmic chase scene narrative. I love the Indian influenced Irish jig, dancing on a serenely flowing drone. The music conjures up all kinds of confoundingly contrasting analogies. Some of the songs bring to mind Anthony Phillips’ Private Parts & Pieces albums and that Renaissance/Medieval Prog quality. But there’s rarely one identifiable style occurring in a single track, or even a single moment for that matter. Montgomery and Ellett nimbly segue to and from and synthesize multiple styles, with East, West and more coexisting harmoniously throughout single songs. The moog, mellotron, organ and electric guitars are used sparingly and only to add atmosphere, a light Prog shade, and occasional freaky effect.

In short, this is a thoroughly enjoyable set of subtly sophisticated yet universally accessible acoustic driven instrumentals. The promo sheet encourages to “Listen with headphones, you’ll be glad you did!”. I did, and I was!

For more information visit the Fernwood web site at: http://www.fernwoodmusicgroup.com

Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz

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