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Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy Appendix

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 19 / 11 / 2005

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy Appendix
Label: Jagjaguwar
Format: CD


7 track mini album from ever expanding Americana group Okkervill River, which follows on from their 'Black Sheep Boy' album of earlier this year, but which far from being an appendage actually stands on its own

Following on from their ‘Black Sheep Boy’ album from earlier this year which was based around the Tim Hardin song of the same name the ever increasing Okkervil River (they took their name from a story by Tolstoy’s great grandniece) release this seven song mini album that actually stands on it’s own and not just as a companion piece to it’s big brother. Now a 10 piece band according to the CD inlay (and that’s only if you don’t count the vocals of Amy Annelle and all the string, mellotron and Hammond players also listed and we won’t even go near the masses who provided "additional handclaps") it’s still vocalist and multi instrumentalist Will Sheff who writes all the songs and while the album certainly wouldn’t be as atmospheric without all the other musicians it still is very much Sheff’s vision that shapes these sounds. A band this size that could loosely be grouped in that catch-all genre of Americana is bound to attract the attention of fans of Lambchop. But the, frankly, disturbing CD cover conjures up an altogether darker, more disturbing picture than that of Lambchop and their ilk, which is a shame as while the cover will appeal to Norwegian Death Metal freaks the music inside, although at times dark and brooding, is, in fact, quite beautiful. The album opens with ‘Missing Children’, a string laden beauty with Sheff sounding like a world weary Jonathan Donahue (Mercury Rev) which despite its title and lyrics is breathtakingly stunning and a fine opening song. But to think that we were in for another 6 songs from the darker side of life would be wrong, musically at least. The following ‘No Key, No Plan’ is a surprising rockabilly song with an effective call and answer chorus. ‘A Garden’, the following song, is more like what we expect from Sheff and co., although a short instrumental, it manages to conjure up the places we hopefully only visit in nightmares, albeit one where we want to return to now and then if we dare. ‘Black Sheep Boy #4’ benefits both from Amy Annelle’s ghostly vocals and Sheff’s harmonica along with some gorgeous pedal steel from Chris Heinrich. It also contains what could arguably be Sheff’s most impassioned vocals to date before gently fading out on some toy piano. As said, this mini album stands on its own, one doesn’t necessarily have to own or be over familiar with the ‘Black Sheep Boy’ full length album to appreciate this music. In fact, in some ways it is a short but effective introduction to the work of Okkervil River and acts as a good taster for the full album. I do wonder, however, how many potential buyers will be put off by the cover art. The back cover of giant, old radios standing in line like a graveyard will strike home with those familiar with Okkervil River, but it might deter as many people as it attracts which would be a shame as music as beautifully dark as this has a place in all our lives.

Track Listing:-
1 Missing Children
2 No Key, No Plan
3 A Garden
4 Black Sheep Boy #4
5 Another Radio Song
6 A Forest
7 Last Love Song For Now

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