Joseph Allred’s stirring new record, Branches & Leaves, is a masterpiece amalgamation of folk traditions and stylings.
Available on vinyl through Feeding Tube Records and digitally from Allred’s Bandcamp page, Branches & Leaves features everything from spiritual choral singing to banjo fantasias and chamber string music. Allred breathes new life into these traditions of old, utilizing each style to emphasize the earthy and sacred atmosphere of their songs.
On songs like the William Blake-esque title track, Allred brings the listener down into the waters of a mysterious riverbank where they’re confronted by a deathlike presence with cold hands and eyes of fire that promises freedom once the speaker returns what’s his. Allred’s use of harmonium and soaring vocals firmly sets the devotional and folkloric tone of this piece, making it feel like a genuine heirloom song that’s been handed down from generation to generation since the 18th century.
The album’s only two non-original songs, “When the World’s on Fire,” and “Can’t Feel at Home,” have their roots with the likes of The Carter Family, so their inclusion helps to make this record feel as genuinely rustic and worn as the old stone fences you may find still snaking through the woods in the rural North East. Yet, Allred’s revival of these traditional songs at this particular point in time reminds us of how these themes of existential dread, alienation and faith are just as relevant now as they were when they were written around a century ago. They are not only timely, they’re eternal.
Throughout the LP, Allred’s vocal work and spirited instrumentation stirs the soul and stuns you with its raw humanity, which comes to a head on the celebratory closing track, “When They Lay Me Down.”
If you enjoy music that contemplates the spirit and the human condition through the lens of rural heritage folk traditions, then Branches & Leaves is likely going to be one of your favorite albums of 2021. Click here to get the record on vinyl and click here to grab it digitally from Bandcamp today.