George Harrison was the quiet Beatle. He left it to John Lennon and Paul McCartney to make their respective big musical statements. Harrison found his niche within the band with exquisitely compact guitar playing and the occasional songwriting credit, many of which served as the album's highlight like "Taxman" on Revolver and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the White Album. Harrison never had the big ego which made him a perfect foil for his Beatles bandmates.
Within the "freak folk" scene in California, Andy Cabic has taken the George Harrison mantle. Since moving from the North Carolina to the San Francisco Bay area, he has been very comfortable supporting other artists such as Chris Robinson, Devendra Banhart, and Gary Louris. He's also put out a series of stellar albums as the musical force behind Vetiver.
The first few Vetiver releases displayed a leaning towards primitive acoustic sounds. By the time Vetiver released its covers album (Thing Of The Past), his British isles folk influences were fully on display. He did cover Townes Van Zandt and Bobby Charles as well, but the British vibe of the album remained strong. On Tight Knit, Vetiver's previous album, Andy Cabic's connection to George Harrison fully surfaced. That record sounds like Harrison made it himself as perhaps a more subtle set of songs preceding All Things Must Pass. Tight Knit was a collection of acoustic guitar driven pop songs that were notable in the subtlety and humility.
On The Errant Charm, Vetiver's Harrison influences are still present, but they manifest in the same way that Harrison's own influence as a solo artist began to take shape and inform artists like Stealer's Wheel. Harrison found the middle ground between folk, pop, and rock guitar, blending them together into a pleasing sound with hook-laden tunes that never lost their rock and acoustic undertones. Although Harrison himself recorded sporadically over his lifetime, his sound remained radio-friendly over his entire solo career.
The Errant Charm follows this approach becoming Vetiver's most accessible record to date. Bookended between spacey folk of "It's Beyond Me" and "Soft Glass" (which begin and end the album, respectively), the rest of the album brims with catchy pop-laden tunes. The band has also woven in strong elements of the 1970s SoCal pop scene led by band like Fleetwood Mac. The three song arch of "Can't You Tell" "Hard To Break" and "Fog Emotion" give Lindsey Buckingham a run for his money.
"Right Away" builds itself around a Byrds-like guitar chime as Vetiver finds the same middle ground that early Tom Petty did, another expat Southerner who found success under the California sun. "Wonder Why" and "Ride Ride Ride" show that like Harrison, Cabic knows how to assert his guitar playing within his pop sensibilities. These two songs deserve special attention in the way that they find that perfect balance between pop and rock.
Recently, Cabic was asked the question, "what should a great song do?" His answer was simple - "It should make you want to listen to it again." Like his musical mentor, Andy Cabic reveals himself as a humble and dedicated servant to his craft. His goals for songcraft might be simple but pulling off an album of highly listenable songs is no small feat.
After listening to The Errant Charm, you'll find yourself going back for more. Mission accomplished, Mr. Cabic.
- Jim Markel
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