Reed KD – The Ashes Bloom
Dirty Laundry Records
If humans had cryogenically frozen Simon and Garfunkel, somehow managed to splice their genes together and then dumped the resulting musician in Northern California today, we would have another Reed Dahlmeier: the namesake and the creative engine under the hood of Reed KD. On The Ashes Bloom, Reed KD’s first full-length album, Reed provides impressive instrumentation: vocals, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, mandolin, harmonica, piano, Rhodes, keyboards, bass, accordion and programmed beats. This would normally only raise an eyebrow, but Dahlmeier himself plays all of these instruments while harmonizing with himself!
Joined by siblings Hal and Brice—drums and piano on “Road Flares” and “Sinking Stone,” respectively—and Michael Peimani—drums on “Sinking Stone” and “Even If I”—Reed Dahlmeier croons with a slight breathiness that’s simultaneously lonely and endearing. The twelve songs on The Ashes Bloom focus thematically on love, but they do so obliquely, such as in “Say You’ll Miss Me,” when Dahlmeier’s voice nearly fades beneath the country-folk rhythm of a twangy acoustic guitar, singing: “So now we will do what we have to / and cut burning branches.”
Nowhere does The Ashes Bloom run short of poetically-inclined expression. The images Dahlmeier connects are, once again, subtle but powerful. He opens “Travel Sick Blues” by relating: “Bought a van missing half a bumper, / turned the back to my place of slumber, / then hit the road on a short road trip, / though my plans were indefinite.” Such seamless rhymes come effortlessly to Dahlmeier. The song opens with a classical-sounding guitar tumbling down a scale then moves into a snappy, folksy hand-strummed rhythm that fittingly carries the stripped-down tune. The only other instrumentation on “Travel Sick Blues” consists of a brief, lilting harmonica and Dahlmeier’s airy falsetto harmonies fluidly accenting his melodies.
Despite the obvious parallels to the latter, Reed KD isn’t content to be pigeon-holed as a Simon and Garfunkel knock-off. “Sinking Stone” makes use of piano, keyboards and the Fender Rhodes, while “Roll Over” and “You Can Call Me” (my personal favorite track on the album) layer programmed drums on that mix.
I think these were Reed KD’s self-described “experimental folk” songs, although they stay firmly rooted in pop-folk melodies; but those who might cringe at the term “experimental” stay on board…The Ashes Bloom is well worth a prime spot in your listening rotation.
“You Can Call Me” is one of the best mixes of a 60’s-sounding folk song with a catchy, drum machine beat I’ve come across. The first time I heard it, I wondered if another artist had been spliced into the mix. A warbling synthesizer hums a low introduction to some programmed drums before a minimalist snare-snare-bass pattern and a falling lead-guitar line enter. The chorus is lyrically simple—“You can call me / anytime you’re feeling lonely. / I’ll do my best to be your friend. / But believe me / I know that it won’t be easy. / I never wanted things to end.”—but the irresistible beat, undeniable guitar melody, the sound the words carry and the fitting rhyme stay with you from the first listen.
There’s not a bad song on the album, and I had a tough time picking a favorite from so many great tunes. If you like folk-rock… if you like guitar and catchy, beautiful melodies… if you like Bright Eyes or Simon and Garfunkel or Rocky Votolato… if you like good music, buy The Ashes Bloom.
—Timothy C. Avery