Album Review :
Tree by Leaf - There Is a Vine

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Artist: Tree by Leaf
Album: There Is a Vine
Label: Long Ago Light
Release Date: 2006
Review by: Eric Pettersson

Tracklist:
1. Over and Under
2. Chicago at Night
3. His Banner over Us Is Love
4. Fraud
5. Come on, Babe
6. Little Lost and Lonely
7. I Know Naught of Thee
8. Prince or Pauper
9. Believe It
10. You Have Always Met Me
11. God Is Good
12. Doxology

Once in a while (or extremely often, depending where you get your music), one will find a band that scores very low on the originality scale. Millions of singers spend their time copying each other, and it gets older and older. Some voices are bland, some are generic, and the rare others stand out completely. Upon listening to Tree by Leaf, I immediately decided that this guy is getting a low score on that originality scale because his voice sounds almost exactly like that of Connor Oberst. However, three things keep me from giving that low score. One, their voices are only very similar and not exactly the same. Two, it’s probably not his fault he has a voice that sounds like Connor’s. And three (the most important factor), by golly is this a good CD!

Joining the waves of the modern folk revival, Tree by Leaf add an interesting spin by sounding a little bit like their musical beginnings were in their local Bluegrass Gospel Church’s worship team. Some songs are sung by the guy who sounds like Connor, others by a girl with a soft and smooth voice that flows over the drums and acoustic guitars like a gentle brook over some small rocks. The upbeat songs have an almost punk feel to them (think Calibretto 13), despite their simplistic folk nature. “His Banner over us Is Love” sings about the idolatry of patriotism and how the only King a Christian needs is Jesus and the only flag we need is Love. I appreciate that the writer takes special care to say this isn’t just an anti-democracy rant by mentioning that he’s not a communist either. Other songs talk about the struggle to know God in a luxurious culture that doesn’t need His help (“I Know Naught of Thee”) and how He is always good and always cares for us (“You Have Always Met Me,” “God Is Good”). “Prince or Pauper” brings an Asian flavor, but maintains the Tree by Leaf feel, especially lyrically.

Honestly, this thing probably won’t sell too well, and there’s little chance of Tree by Leaf moving to a big label. But honestly, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t or they shouldn’t. It’s bands like this that have helped a punk fan like me to grow very fond of folk music over the past few years. With obvious appeal to minimalist indie kids as well as roots-rocking Dylan fans, Tree by Leaf write songs that are spiritually uplifting and socially aware.

8/10

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