This is Charlie Treat’s first foray into bluegrass, and with its austere, hard-charging guitar-banjo-bass-fiddle arrangements, it’s definitely very on-the-edge, and very compelling. As he explains in the accompanying press material, Treat has been steeped in traditional sounds since he was a kid growing up on a farm in New England, though along the way he’s taken other stylistic excursions.
As a writer and singer, Treat inhabits a similar singer-songwriter territory as the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Lyle Lovett, John Prine and Jason Isbell. His music is at times almost painfully heart-on-sleeve and unfiltered. In other moments—as in the playful “Squirrel Song”—he can also make you laugh. His songs tend to adhere less closely to tight narratives but often tell stories and capture states of mind through a dazzling cascade of lyrics and raw emotion. In the long run, his original tunes definitely get their points across and make for some fine listening in the process.
Treat and his small, first-rate cadre of supporting musicians recorded Into the Wild Mystic Mountain in a couple of days of live takes. In other words, they just pressed “record” and let it rip. The result is often like a blast of nervous energy and jittery immediacy.
You can hear this vividly in “Motor Motor,” which has no clear story line, yet conveys the dark urgency of a man speeding toward some sort of ominous spiritual reckoning. “Swimming In November,” by contrast, is a tender remembrance of a romance that has since come and gone.
“Mother Hen” (check out the cool video on YouTube, which features Americana sensation Sierra Ferrell) is another exhilarating case in point. In it the narrator describes how:
I wanna real mama, arm pit hair, no drama,
Breast feeds the kid, hits weed like it’s pranayama
I wanna real woman, thin fuse, big stomach,
Hands on her hips and her guns in the cupboard
In “Creekwater Blues” Treat paints an extraordinary tableau of a woman whose music is so magical that it awakens nature from a million-year slumber, as:
Even snakes started peaking their faces
the turtles laid out on the rocks and started bobbin their heads
At the moment, Treat is still flying somewhat under the radar. But he certainly deserves a much bigger audience. And if we’re lucky, and if my instincts are right, we’ll be hearing a lot more from him in times to come.