Review ·

You & Me is the debut record by Vetiver guitarist Kevin Barker, a veteran of the alt-folk scene who has recorded and played with many a "freak-folker," including heavyweights like Vasti Bunyan and Devendra Banhart. With guests that include Joanna Newsom, Wilco’s Pat Sansone, and Vetiver’s Otto Hauser, You & Me remains an intimate affair built upon basic arrangements that often have an epic feel.

And it's mostly a comforting trip, too, with overtones of the Grateful Dead enhancing (rather than crashing) the emotional kick. Barker’s voice is often much like that of Jerry Garcia -- it has a slightly plaintive but celebratory tone. That gives an evokative grit to “Walking Along,” “I Will Fly,” and “Little Picture Of You,” songs in which the music might have disappeared saved for that voice.

On “Amber” and “Mountain & Bear,” Barker’s voice and musical arrangement work best, each seeming to urge on the other to reveal hidden wisdom. Too much of alt-folk sounds deliberately aimed at being odd or obscure; Barker cuts through that and just delivers a good, quiet record. Many of the songs end up sounding alike, and the somewhat dreamlike lyrics can lose you in a maze of psuedo-poetry, but You & Me is a solid debut. Barker’s strengths are, therefore, those of the record: simple guitar and an often golden voice.

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R.M.

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