Draw Me Stories - The Plugged/Unplugged Sessions

Owain Paciuszko 14/06/2009

Rating: 4/5

Cardiff trio Draw Me Stories come with a self-confessed musical multiple personality, having both their 'plugged' and 'unplugged' personas, and thusly what popped through my letterbox were two CDs titled accordingly.

The Plugged Sessions begins with a strong acoustic guitar rhythm and lightly tapped drums and lead singer Carl Hodgett's British Josh Homme delivery, though he's singing a song that should be getting people dancing there's a wry detachment to his delivery that works for the sound. The song hits its peak around the three minute mark when a bass line comes in accompanied by a range of eccentric percussion.

Whispers picks up from the hints of sun-kissed Latin grooves that were suggested in Shake, it's a song with the dusty, swagger of Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi movies. The Windows in the Hearts of the Guilty finds the band sounding remarkably similar to New Zealand's The Veils filled with dark passion and strident folk leanings, it's an effectively emotional and bitter song that leads well into the more straight-forward rock sound of Diamonds Into Dirt.

Final track The Veil seems to bring together all the styles and influences of the previous four tracks into one whole, it's billed as a 'bonus track' and does have the feel of something tacked on, not really posessing the polish of the preceding songs.

The Unplugged Sessions opens with Spiders which has the flavour of Queens of the Stone Age's mellower moments, beguiling and sinister whilst totally compelling. Hodgett mellows his voice accordingly for these unplugged tracks, sounding occasionally like Gomez's Ben Ottewell and the song itself has the tequilla-folk sound of something like Tijuana Lady.

These tracks have that lilting folk sound played beautifully, each track catching on to intricately crafted hooks and melodies and drawing the listener in. Seesaw is a perfect example of this, with stuttered and overlapping vocals, a spooky glockenspiel twinkling amongst the gently plucked guitar and soft drumming. Building, with the skin itching refrain of 'The insects crawling down, down...', to a chorus both desolate and despairing and head-noddingly relaxing.

There's an unplugged version of Shake which doesn't seem to do too much different with the song itself, but, fortunately it's still a good song. Comes & Smiles & Leaves juxtaposes a rather light guitarline with mournfully cooed Jeff Buckley-esque vocals, it's a swampy fairytale number that bursts into a feverishly strummed second half.

The Oak Tree is a very traditional sounding folk number, with a rhythm that induces swaying and conjures up images of fields and warm grass, the music floating above your head like clouds in varying shapes. Final track Make TVs Dance is a grand folk song that begins as a showcase for Hodgett's impressive voice, taking a sudden dive into the underworld as the song progresses. Though it bares many stylistic similarities to tracks gone by, it's still a strong number due to the skill exhibited by this trio of extremely talented musicians who carry their sound well across both these CDs.

Draw Me Stories are hugely talented and in possession of a wealth of intriguing and expertly crafted tracks, these two session albums raise the bar very high for any future releases. Though there's an unflinching confidence to the performances contained herein that this is just the tip of the iceberg.