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Matt Bauer


In the tradition of the early records by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, singer-songwriter Matt Bauer produces an ominous mixture of neo-traditionalist folk, country, and bluegrass that hinges on minimalist banjo and guitar touches. Bauer's latest short form, Wasps and White Roses, is a collection of experimental vignettes designed to haunt and enchant.

The opener, "Carve It Out," is an ethereal acoustic guitar track that finds Bauer and guest vocalist Jolie Holland cracking and wailing in the country tradition. The title track also features a guest vocal, this time from Mariee Souix. On this song, Bauer calls on the mystics with Souix's spellbinding soprano accompanying him through serene a capella parts. The brief instrumental, "White Horse," consists largely of droning fiddles and delicate banjo, while the updated traditional "Sea Lion Woman" is at once rousing and ominous. "Sea Lion Woman" also features new verses that turn the tale of a flirtation into a tale of desperation and loneliness.

The second half of the EP begins with the instrumental "The Owl and the Snake." On this melancholic ode, Bauer employs an Eastern-influenced intro inspired by John Fahey before turning to bluegrass once again. The revamped "Heap of Little Horses" follows, with Bauer changing the lyrics to turn the traditional lullaby into a cryptic murder ballad. The closing track provides a marked contrast to all that came before. The Bauer composition "Poor Robin" has a full square-dance-meets-Western-swing feel. Fiddles and banjos drive this love song that features high lonesome guest vocals from Nathan Wanta of Last Of The Blacksmiths.

Wasps and White Roses covers conventional lyrical traditions without triteness or derivation. Overall, Bauer's semi-sophomore outing is a mellow yet haunting blend of traditional fare that provides an excellent introduction to the husky-voiced singer-songwriter. • Tracy M. Rogers

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