The burst of interest in psychedelic folk in 2005, launched by the mass acceptance of Devendra Banhart, brought with it many things (not all of them bearded). Some long-lost gems were rediscovered, some new ones were released, and some bands even got a bit of a second chance. The soothing Bare Bones and Branches, the 2002 debut from Lewis & Clarke, was re-released that year, and the album was embraced by a small pocket of enthusiastic listeners. The psychedelic folk wave now seems to have crested, so we can enjoy these types of records without the confines of simple trends. But Blasts of Holy Birth, the band’s sophomore full-length, seems poised to gain a lot of attention, with its immediate pop melody strums, and earnest lyrics.
Lewis & Clarke, led by a songwriter from Pennsylvania named Lou Rogai, begins its second album with a mood-inducing instrumental opener, “Secret of the Golden Flower,” which dissolves into the sparkling folk-pop vocals of “Blasts of Holy Birth.” But the album really takes off upon the entrance of album standout, “Before It Breaks You,” a ten-minute ballad of the best kind — shiny harmonies, gentle builds, counter-melodies and horns. It sounds an awful lot like something Andrew Bird would create, but the song is perfectly crafted, well executed, and earnest in its intent.
By the time you arrive at the accordion builds on the country-laced sixth track, “Crimson Carpets,” it’s obvious that this album is a keeper. Blasts of Holy Birth is thoroughly enjoyable, and it would rest snugly beside your copy of Pink Moon and Brightblack Morning Light. In aiming to create music that is emotionally pure, Lewis & Clarke has released one of the best of the year so far. Not bad for a little indie-folk project from Pennsylvania, that’s for sure.