Wes Finch - Asthill Grove

Owain Paciuszko 10/01/2010

Rating: 3/5

Or, to be more accurate, W. Finch, P. Hartry and friends. Opening with the pleasing scrabble of a radio tuning (via Abba's Dancing Queen) into a laidback Bill Callahan-esque guitar, the bittersweet Wooden Hill (intro) is a slight and pleasant way to begin the record before the alt-country Bright Eyes sounding banjo-driven swagger of Oh My Days!. Finch, clearly a consumate and intelligent musician, has assembled a equally talented entourage of players around him, lending this charming LP a rich, warm and friendly sound.

Air, Land & Sea has the soothing reverberations of a double bass resounding throughout, mingled amongst quirky flourishes of percussion. However Finch's vocal on this track is a tad too saccahrine for my tastes, falling nearer to the more commercial sounding contemporary singer-songwriters. On Ain't We The Lucky Ones? there's a lightness and cheeky approach similar to Nizlopi, even going so far as to throw in a bit of Huey Lewis & The News and some laughter on the way out. Though it's too much of an outtake and drifts Finch further away from the fullness of the first two tracks.

Fortunately Jack To Do is a step back in the right direction, with its acoustics dancing sweetly from ear to ear and harmonica drifting in and out, whilst Finch remains lyrically playful there's enough meat to the bones of this track to prevent it from feeling off the cuff. It's followed by a somewhat sombre instrumental called Instrumental that leads into Keep Fishing... which owes more to Bright Eyes' Lua than it does its Weezer namesake, and in balancing the vocals of Finch with Liz Crowley manages to strike a very nice chord that it, somewhat frustratingly, just teases us with.

Throwing in some gypsy sounding percussion on The New Waltz elevates the track beyond its somewhat familiar verses, before blooming into a version of Glory, Glory Hallejuah. The record closes with a reprise of Wooden Hill, all mandolins, accordions and chorused vocals. It lends the record a good sense of structure, almost deceptively so considering the wobbly nature of the mid-section. Regardless, Wes Finch is a talented musician who here perhaps pays a little to much unconscious (?) homage to his influences. However with certain stand-out tracks or arrangments he - and his collaborators - demonstrate considerable skill that promises good things for future efforts.