Cricket Tell the Weather is a quartet that dubs itself “a singer-songwriter based acoustic string band out of New York City.” While I wouldn’t normally open a review by quoting from a band’s own website, their online biography helps explain a few things about their debut CD. While six bandmembers are listed, two are bassists: Jeff Picker is now the group’s guitarist, while the other, Hans Bilger, has been replaced by Sam Weber. Got all that on your scorecard? Because you’ll also need to allow for the fact that the number two lead vocalist on the CD, guitarist/songwriter Jason Borisoff, has left the group to pursue a solo career, and the album’s third lead singer, mandolinist Dan Tressler, is also no longer with the band.
So that leave these Crickets with an interesting collection of nine songs that doesn’t quite hold together as a cohesive unit, but gives considerable indication of the promising talents of the remaining bandmembers. While this release manages to sound like four different bands at various points, the current quartet lineup seems to reflect the direction that holds the most encouraging and distinctive niche for the band.
The two songs that bookend the album, “Remington” and “Salt & Bones,” are both written and sung by fiddler Andrea Asprelli, whose casually wispy voice makes its deepest impact in a softer new acoustic setting. She can also deliver songs with the force required in bluegrass, most effectively on her “Rocky Mountain Skies.” With the support of banjoist Doug Goldstein, the group uses thoughtful arranging and instrumental restraint, enabling them to sound at home in both traditional and modern styles.
The personnel changes shed some light retrospectively on the impression that this album is a kind of mosaic. Former guitarist Borisoff writes some interesting songs, with the best being his “Embers,” but the band sounds like a different unit entirely with him in the forefront. Similarly, the sole cover with Tressler taking the front on Pat Enright’s “Who’s That Knocking At My Door,” shows that they can handle straight bluegrass quite competently, with some nice vocal arrangement twists added towards the end. Yet it doesn’t showcase the ensemble’s strengths as effectively as those originals that don’t fit neatly into a bluegrass niche.
Personnel changes are an inevitable part of the evolution of bands, and recordings can’t be expected to keep up with all of their shifting directions. Suffice it to say, there’s enough talent in the songwriting, singing, and playing of those members who still remain to make this a young group well worth watching. (www.crickettelltheweather.com)HK