As a church musician, I've been known to program what I thought were familiar Charles Wesley hymns, only to find my non-Methodist song leaders tongue-tied by the ambitious melodies and all-doctrine-all-the-time words. When I have a week off and visit an Episcopal church, the Hymnal 1982's Arthur Sullivan tunes make my mind wander to operetta.
This new band's sound has roots in the indie-folk scene, with its moody treatments of simple chord progressions and Americana rhythms. But the larger thread here is classic pop, and The Head and the Heart offers the complete feel-good package.
Alt-country is typically traced to Uncle Tupelo, but the early '90s Jayhawks made better records. Where Uncle Tupelo found scrappy affinities between traditional Americana and punk, the Jayhawks brought '70s country-rock to the alt-rock '90s.
There was a shallow moss gray basin set with bunches of grapes. The grapes were chiseled green with the ripeness of their September harvest. There was a pert glazed pitcher, black as obsidian, filled with cold water. There were six linen napkins with red diagonal strips laxly laid by earthenware plates.
But no one sat at the low walnut table. There was no shepherd or mastiff nearby. No, Old Pritchard’s family—bless them!— was casting about somewhere below for his lean body, his cracked bones.