Dusted Reviews

Currituck County - Sleepwalks in the Garden of the Deadroom

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Currituck County

Album: Sleepwalks in the Garden of the Deadroom

Label: Track and Field

Review date: Mar. 29, 2005

Currituck County owes a great deal to the musical forms of acoustic masters Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and John Fahey. The brainchild of Brooklyn-based guitarist/songwriter Kevin Barker, Currituck’s cross-continental style blends timeworn tradition with musique concrete in a sound both adventurous and unassuming. Next to the work of peers Animal Collective and Six Organs of Admittance, Barker’s compositions might seem downright old-fashioned. This is not entirely a bad thing.

Sleepwalks in the Garden of the Deadroom, Currituck County’s latest, is plain in an Amish kind of way. Barker seems unconcerned with unnecessary aural adornment, favoring reverb-free vocals and spare fingerpicking over digital editing and post-production fuckery. His songs are striking in their directness, with straightforward prose and modal guitar providing the basic architecture. Rough hewn and unmolested, Currituck achieve a naturalism that often evades other free-folk practitioners.

“I Went Outside Today” is a spry little ditty about romantic remembrance. Filled with allusions to spring, it's great headphone music for an afternoon stroll. “How did you ever make it / Out of this black hole town with your dignity intact / And how’d you ever shake it / The curse of being twenty / And all the bums that you’d attract,” Barker sings, with a voice best described as homely. A cello appears about three minutes in, scrapes hauntingly against the guitar arpeggios, then disappears without a trace. The track is absolutely lovely.

The plaintive balladry of “Sleepwalking” finds Barker in self-confessional mode, his nasally voice bemoaning misspent youth. “Slept through 22 / And 24 wasn’t any more,” he softly sings. Gentle strings and tinkling piano give the tune a sense of yearning, with somewhat heavy-handed results. Barker seems unwilling to completely yield to the failures of the past, however. “Come back to me now / And show me how to disavow this frown,” he implores. It's a bit mawkish, but he sounds earnest enough.

Many of the tunes on Sleepwalks in the Garden utilize unconventional textures, but nearly all of the embellishments are left as bare as bark. This is not a psychedelic record, and the experimental elements serve simply as contrast or as the catalysts for a change in mood. “Wisdom of the Weeks” opens with what sounds like rain, subsequently joined by piping woodwind and an open-tuned guitar. Unfortunately, the song's subtle Eastern textures are marred by Barker’s stilted voice. Layers of drone and percussion swell in the song’s gorgeously hypnotic coda, building to a delightful din. Left as an instrumental, the track would've been perfect.

Barker is an intuitive musician who pays worthy homage to the titans of modal folk, but his somewhat pedestrian lyrics and awkward vocals can take some getting used to. Currituck County is to be commended for its honesty, though. Musically virtuous and gimmick-free, Barker really does stand out from the crowd.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

Other Reviews of Currituck County

Ghost Man On Second

Read More

View all articles by Casey Rae-Hunter

Find out more about Track and Field

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.