By Alessandro Improta
Andrew Wiscombe is the working class man of the music scene in these parts. While many musicians here approach their stage persona with a “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude, pretending to be a bigger star than they currently are, Andrew Wiscombe is very much the humble family man that he is regardless of whether he is in the spotlight or not. A good ol’ boy who served in the Army as a sniper, Wiscombe is now a full time musician, supporting his wife and two boys singing songs about the world as he sees it, be it through the scope of his sniper, or the eyes of his children.
His most recent release, The River, The Lark, The Pine, is perfect example of what Wiscombe stands for as a musician. His use of poignant story telling, and honest portrayals of the human condition will resonate with the most human parts of you. Songs like, “Holdin’ a Ghost,” – a song about Charlie and Jane, a couple in love, war, and pain – become less of a music experience and more of a chance to relate with the characters Wiscombe creates. He’s not afraid of talking about real things. In this song, Charlie comes home from war and is deeply affected by it. As Wiscombe puts it, “His [mind’s] still on the run.” Jane can’t help but feel like the husband she had before the war is no longer, and that upon his return she holds nothing but the ghost of the man he once was.
This is why I love my job. I get to hear real music. You don’t get this kind of content in popular music. I am sick of watching people nae-nae. I’m sick of “artists” getting away with being degrading and superficial. We need to promote art that means something, that moves people, and that expresses true emotion. Rant over.
Beyond just heartfelt stories, Wiscombe can have fun, taking a lighthearted approach like he does on “Little Red Wagon.” Playful, reminiscent of the southern upbringing you never had, this song is full of slide guitar and entertaining commentary in the background. If I’ve interpreted this song correctly, it is sung from the perspective of a child who finds life is just too tough with all of their chores and decides to fill up their red wagon and take off. A very comical thing to write about. We’ve all had thoughts about running away from our problems, but sometimes we may not realize how childish our problems actually are.
Here’s the truth about The River, The Lark, The Pine: you’re probably not going to be that impressed musically. That’s not to say that it isn’t good. It’s just pretty broken down, and even on the more upbeat songs, they are fairly simple. The production isn’t the greatest either. It sounds like it’s a DIY effort. Wiscombe is a solid guitar player, but you won’t be blown away by guitar licks. Wiscombe is a pretty good singer, but you’re not going to be taken aback by the timbre of his voice or his technical ability. The thing that is different about this album is that it is all about the songwriting. The focus is on the lyrics and delivery.
This is where Andrew Wiscombe seriously shines. His ability to use his experiences and allow them to mold his music is fantastic and unique. It’s not bad background music, but to grasp what makes this album great there has to be focus on the part of the listener.
My one true criticism of this album is that I wish it was a little more polished. I think that this kind of raw country music, ironically, needs to be a bit more produced at times to really make it shine. By polished, I also feel like the arrangements could use a little bit more work. I know Wiscombe does a cool one man band kind of performance when he plays live, but I think that especially on a record, he would be better served by bringing in other musicians and instrumentalists to create full, satisfying arrangements.
All in all, it is easy for me to recommend this album, but I would do it with an explanation to the listener so that they know what to expect. I also love hearing this genre in the area. If there is one thing Provo could be better about, it is having a true variety when it comes to genre, and Wiscombe is definitely helping the cause.
Make sure to like Andrew Wiscombe on Facebook. The River, The Lark, The Pine is available on iTunes here and Spotify here. Listen to “Holdin’ A Ghost” below.