There are some albums that hook you right from the first note, pull you deep into their worlds and won’t let go until the final moments of the final song. Joseph Allred’s Michael is one of those albums.
With a bevy of releases under their belt already, Allred is a well seasoned musician that often practices under the umbrella of American Primitive guitar and folk music. On this release in particular, they employ drones from harmoniums and bowed string instruments to create dense walls of sound that hum with life and take you to a mystical realm. On top of these mesmerizing soundscapes, Allred weaves banjo, their acoustic fingerpicking, and soaring vocals. You easily feel totally enveloped and overwhelmed by these recordings, as each song feels connected to some sort of higher power. Like they’re a celebration of—and in reverence to—some sort of undefined deity or force.
Most of the tracks on this album shimmer with a magic-like quality, especially the ethereal dulcimer and autoharp-filled “What Faulkner Saw,” and the opening and closing tracks, which almost sound like some sort of call to prayer.
Also on the album is Allred’s stunning adaptation of the classic folk tune, “O Death.” Their voice reverberates like thunder ringing out in a deep valley, as they recount lyrics about someone trying to reason unsuccessfully with death. These words strike with an especially great potency during the year that brought us the trotting pale horse that is COVID-19.
Between the woody groans of the harmonium, the rumbling acoustics and Allred’s spectral vocals, the album feels very in tune with the most foundational elements, like the earth and the soul. At once, this music sounds as though it emanates from deep below the soil, and from Allred’s own heart. Not many records can feel so personal and yet so a part of the natural world. An astounding feat to say the least.
Spiritual to the core, this is a record that would stand out as being absolutely peerless in your collection. Be sure to grab a copy on vinyl from Feeding Tube Records here, or if you want it digitally, pick it up from Bandcamp here.