The Pilgrim – Luke Spehar (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

The idea of a travelling musician is one of romance and adventure, of endless experiences from visiting new towns, meeting new people, writing new songs and then moving on for the next instalment of adventure.

The reality is far from romantic; sleeping in the car, not getting paid for gigs, getting abuse from audience members who don’t give a monkey’s about music but what is true is the endless experiences and writing new songs, or at least giving fuel to new songs.

This is where we find Minnesota native Luke Spehar, his life has taken a change into the serious, becoming a father, getting married, buying a home and playing across America’s middle states and the songs presented here on his fourth album reflects this.

There are love songs, private songs that are so privately written that they are surely for his wife, tales of America’s farming industry and the occasional foot stomper to raise your spirits.

Spehar’s style is one of Americana folk, of storytelling set to a gentle acoustic sound that allows the listener time and room to absorb the subtle fractions of the production. Looking at the list of instruments used on this album it reads like a who’s who of American folk music, guitar, bass, banjo, spoons, accordion, fiddle. With these sounds all lining up you’re in no doubt of what kind of record you’re going to be given but he manages to slightly tilt the recipe and use these instruments in a different way, it would be easy to write seven songs suitable for a barn dance but here it’s all very measured and controlled and the songs benefit from this treatment allowing the lyrics and the voice to come into their own.

As we reach the final month of the year, and people start compiling their top ten books, films, albums and songs from the last twelve months, I try to think back to the songs that have made me immediately hit the ‘repeat’ button on my stereo, there can’t be many but opening track ‘The Farmer’ did.

It’s a wonderful track about a man and the industry and toil of being an honest farmer, there is a beautiful cycle to the story and is a metaphor for getting back what you put in, for reaping what you sow and if getting married and starting a family results in this standard of song writing I suggest we all go and do it.

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