Starting the penultimate collection of songs from the nameless Bostonian wizard of Americana, Beware Wolves, I was anticipating more of his genuinely impressive consistency, his trademark shapeshifting voice, that’s at once baritone, tenor, and alto, and his easy-to-follow, yet compelling songwriting. So, what did I find? Let’s see.
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Beware Wolves’ formula is truly simple and approachable. Bold and admirable. He writes songs, based mostly on an acoustic guitar, then he writes words to go along with the music, then he runs the recorder and captures those ideas, right then and there, in one take most of the time, with inconsistencies and imperfections as essential parts of those performances. The resulting output resembled an album that has 81 songs and runs roughly for 4 hours. He cut this up into 9 parts, and voila, an anthology is born. His decision to arrange the 81 songs in a purely alphabetical fashion has cost him one or two issues with pacing, but the quality has remained solid, and the songs have remained precious little heartfelt gems.
I’m glad to report that the 8th volume has more of just that. Take It From Me starts the album on an exceptionally hazy, chill note. A country cut with a sound that’s sweet and reaffirming like the sun on a cold winter morning. Slow tempo, effortless delivery, and accommodating harmonies make this song cozy and gentle. The Cure has an infectious, bluesy undercurrent that shows up in the characterful riffs, and the swooning vocal delivery. a short stunner. The Difference has Beware Wolves’ distinctive slap-back sound and a Pop inspired chord progression. The vocals are slightly nondescript, and they get submerged beneath the guitar on multiple occasions, but the beautiful guitar performance provides sufficient compensation. The Odds starts a magnificent streak of gorgeous songs. This intoxicating song has a fingerpicking pattern that plays a minimal, yet rich and loaded progression, coupled with an equally rich and emotional vocal delivery, and introspective, heartfelt, inquisitive lyrics, to make this song a contemplative masterpiece. The Take is one of Beware Wolves’ rare songs with a full arrangement. This song is one of the richest Beware Wolves songs and is among my personal favorites. With a driving, simple beat, a charismatic composition with attractive lead guitar lines, these fuller offerings are what ultimately give meaning to Beware Wolves’ generally stripped-down sound. Pay attention to the dazzling piano instrumental that kicks off near the end. Following is The Tell. With one of the more memorable vocal and lyrical performances on his discography, melodic guitar accompaniment, and a dynamic composition that accommodates the lyrical themes, this is one of the more inspired songs on his catalog. Beware Wolves closes this collection with Today. A hypnotic, minimal composition and some serene vocal melodies carry this song forward, along with an understated and restrained string section that wails in the background. A beautiful closer to one of the most memorable of Beware Wolves’ volumes.
The 8th volume has easily climbed to be among my favorite of the 9 volumes. It’s the luck of the draw, with the alphabetical arranging, but it is what it is. The waning crescent is over, and the blood moon comes next, and last, in Beware Wolves illustrious anthology.