(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Where have John Gillette and Sarah Mittlefehldt been hiding? The Poultney -based pair are accomplished on a truckful of instruments, and sound as though they’ve been playing original, soulful acoustic music for much longer than the term “Americana” has been around. On Old Field Pines, an album that Gillette and Mittlefehldt recorded close to home this year at Southview Arts in Middletown Springs, they serve up 11 original songs that sound like old friends. This is comfortable string-band music, well sung and instantly timeless.
It’s hard to describe, exactly, the style of music on this disc. The arrangements sound old timey at times, bluegrassy at others, and Travis-pick-driven now and then. Gillette wrote all the originals and sings lead in a smooth tenor. Mittlefehldt’s effortless harmonies make the sound all the richer. The album’s only cover, “The Gates of Paradise” by David Byrne, is brought right home to Rutland County. It’s as if Gillette and Mittlefehldt hit the song with a magic wand borrowed from Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.
“She’s Leaving the Farm for the City” is a new/old tale of farm life and heartbreak, and has the simplicity of an A.P. Carter classic. “That’s What I’ll Do” shows off everything this husband-and-wife team do well, including hot flatpicking and a catchy groove. And the song has my favorite two-line bridge of the year: “And when we get that wintertime feelin’ / we’ll catch the next flight to New Zealand.”
Mittlefehldt sings lead on “Ten Thousand Lies,” and she’s just as pleasurable to listen to up front as she is providing harmony lines.
Ryan Dubois, who recorded and mastered the album, proves a brilliant young soundman; he shows great sensitivity for acoustic music despite his own rock and punk leanings. The sound on Old Field Pines is spacious and warm. There’s a lot going on musically on each track, and the balance between the many strings and multiple vocal tracks is gloriously maintained throughout.
This music won me over. You can check them out yourself when Gillette and Mittlefehldt perform live every Tuesday at the Back to Vermont Pub in Poultney.