- Glorious Leader, Glorious Leader & the Analog Cabin Mystery
Remember listening to children's storybook cassette tapes? "When you hear the chimes ring, it's time to turn the page!" an enthusiastic narrator would say. Her voice guided rapt youngsters through fairy-tale adventures and nursery rhymes as their eyes and ears followed along.
Indie folk singer-songwriter Kyle Woolard's latest project as Glorious Leader, Glorious Leader & the Analog Cabin Mystery, is a grown-up version of those old storybooks. The Glover-based artist invites listeners to explore the Northeast Kingdom and beyond in story and song with a new digital EP and accompanying glossy, hardbound book. The chapter titles correspond to each track, with sheet music interspersed between the stories. How everything connects is a bit complex and mysterious, so let's focus mainly on the EP.
Woolard's songs are full of exposition, and his release of a companion book underscores that trait. His thoughts and feelings are unambiguous, but the way he expresses himself is especially poetic. He builds a vivid, tactile world — a land covered in frosted windows and snaking rivers slick-wet with ice melting in the spring sun. Feelings escape from his lungs as cloudy plumes of vapor.
As the old story cassettes do, Woolard's EP begins with a narrator — in this case, Doug Safford, a proprietor of Glover antique shop Red Sky Trading. Over a warm, symphonic overture, Safford greets listeners with a grandfatherly tone in the spoken introductory track. He invites us on a "bona fide auricular adventure." Adventuring is one of Woolard's favorite things, and geography is a main theme in his canon.
Woolard takes the listener to the bustling streets of Reykjavik, moonlit nights on the Scandinavian Peninsula and, of course, his secluded Kingdom. In doing so, he sings his life story, centering his chosen home, Vermont.
After the bustling acoustic sketch "Farmer Óli, Bring the Hay!" the gently strummed "Scandinavian Moon" exposes Woolard's artistic longing and vulnerability. As the song's atmosphere pressurizes and deflates, he sings of walking down cobblestone streets, pondering his choices: "And I wonder what I'm after / Vanity or validation / Chaos or control."
Woolard leans hardest into Green Mountain folk on "Green Mountain Sun," a banjo-picked treatise on his favorite place. Frequent collaborator Karl Pestka layers in charming fiddle, accented by blips of glockenspiel. The cozy, inviting piece is sure to make outsiders envious of Vermont's majesty.
The biggest surprise on the EP — aside from the bonus song, "Our Way Home," which comes only with purchase of the full package — is "Reykjavik." Woolard's intimate vocals are closer than ever as finely picked acoustic guitar breezes by. Then blaring, overdriven beats unexpectedly disrupt the quietude, packing in serious oomph in the EP's last song.
Woolard is a worldly, charismatic artist whose love for Vermont altered the course of his life. Once travel is an option again, his journeys will likely continue, inspiring more of his lovingly crafted indie folk.
Glorious Leader & the Analog Cabin Mystery is available at ohgloriousleader.bandcamp.com.