The Quiet American Volume II
Aaron Keim, The Quiet American, is a good looking, bearded musician, luthier (no, me neither; it’s someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments), author, historian, songwriter and all round roots renaissance man. The songs on this album are traditional and original folk songs played on guitar, ukulele and banjo made by himself. Way to go Aaron, make someone feel real good about themselves why don’t you?
I was secretly hoping the album was poor, as no one has the right to be all those things and make great music. Jealous? You bet. Because as well as all the above, it’s a fabulous album. Old timey songs that sound modern, modern songs that sound old timey. Warm vocals, tremendous playing, shading, pitch and presentation. Keim is a student of music, of American folk music specifically; it would appear, evidenced by the choice and number of traditional American folk songs. ‘KC Jones’, ‘Spanish Fandango’, ‘Old Greasy Coat’, the final trio of ‘Wandering Boy’, ‘When Death Comes (Creepin’ In the Room) and the spine tingling. ‘Black Jack Daisy’ all sound like what they are, yet through spectral production and reverential execution, they sound both current and from that bygone era. There’s genuine love in these songs, such is their warmth.
As for his own compositions, they’re tremendous. Subtly indie singer songwriter types, they transcend that pigeon hole with old timey stylings and Keim’s phrasing, both lyrically and in his playing, a couple of them are even indistinguishable from the aforementioned traditionals, namely ‘Whiskey Johnny’ and ‘Break the Hold’ and that is no overstatement. In amongst all this is a cover of that other old timey stylist, M. Ward’s ‘Carolina’. So convincing is it, you can almost imagine it was the original and M. Ward’s the cover. The Quiet American Volume 2 is a paradoxical album in some ways. A very modern sounding album of very old sounding songs.