Artist: Vocal Few
Title: Tall Trees
Label– Independent (Bandcamp)
Release Date: 5/21/13
Reviewer: Ian Zandi
- The Road
- Good Enough
- Afraid (Interlude)
- Simple and Free
- One Day Soon
- Wild I Am
In late 2011, Matt MacDonald and his wife Kristie reported that they would soon be expecting a child. As the lead vocalist for the rock band The Classic Crime, Matt wasn’t exactly rolling in the dough. To pay for the financial burdens of starting a family, the MacDonalds started a side project to help snuff out the bills. Their new folk project, Vocal Few, released She’ll Be Right in January 2012. The record was met with great success and they were able to purchase an abundance of diapers. The album even made it in the top 10 on the Billboard folk chart.
Though it was planned as a “one-time only” project to help pay expenses, the MacDonalds have recorded another EP to help support the announcement of a second bundle of joy. Their new EP, Tall Trees is a musical extension of She’ll Be Right. The two EPs could fit together perfectly on a single album in sound. However, the themes of Tall Trees cover a different road this time around.
The title of the EP automatically paints a picture in my mind of the huge Sequoia trees that are found here in California. The towering trunks of the conifers correlate a natural beauty that captures me in a moment of entrancement. That same natural beauty can be used to describe this album. All of the instruments are organic, the lyrics are brutally humble, and couple’s relationship can be felt through the raw emotion that they put forth in audible form.
“The Road” gives us a glimpse at the band’s life and relationship on the road. The verses are exchanged between Matt and Kristen seamlessly and show both of their perspectives. While that theme continues to be strung throughout the rest of the songs, the lyrics do not run dry. Already proven himself a superb lyricist in The Classic Crime, Matt showcases his talent with the honest lyrics “When all you have is what’s left inside your pocket/And all your dreams seem stuck up on the shelf/Well you’d best prepare the way for change is coming/Cause’ the road will always take you somewhere else”. His thoughts concerning the future also appear on the track “Wild I Am” ;“I always find it hard to ascertain/why it is that I feel this way/when my whole life is in disarray/ the future makes me feel alive”.
While it does seem strange to include an interlude on an EP, the soft “Afraid (Interlude)” makes an appearance right after the Ingrid Michaelson-esque “Misunderstood”. . I find that interlude tracks are often boring and deserved to be skipped over. However, it contrasts well and still belongs on EP without a doubt.
When I reached the track “One Day Soon”, I knew immediately that this track was a gem. Taking a semi-narrative form, this piece is a love song from the MacDdonald parents to their daughter. Alternatively, one could easily translate this into a love song from God to the Church. Matt throws down the finest work on the EP here:
“One day soon, she’ll walk the aisle
My little girl, my precious child
Beautiful woman, veiled and sweet
I’ll smile in disbelief
As the tears roll down my cheek
And then I’ll whisper, softly
‘You’ll never be alone
You’ll never be alone’
Even after God calls both your parents home”
Encouragement is also covered on the track “Good Enough”. The chorus “All that you’ve learned from love/is that you weren’t good enough/But all that you’ve heard is wrong/You know you are strong enough” is a lesson that should be instilled into every child’s life. In a society that tells us that we need more to be liked, we need more to be happy, and we need more to be treated the right way, this song covers the truth. Nobody is beyond love
Overall: I will admit, I did not enjoy this EP as much on the first “spin” nearly as much as I am relishing it now. I did like the organic sound of the band but I was really just “listening through the motions”. Once I dug a little deeper into the lyrical content, I realized how this record was so much more than just a “side project”. Not only is this helping raise a new life in their family, but it is also bringing new life into the music business. It is an encouraging breath of fresh air in a stale industry.
RIYL: Jenny and Tyler, Ingrid Michaelson, Of Monsters and Men, The Classic Crime, JJ Heller