Artist: Dave McGraw & Mandy Fer
Album: Off-Grid Lo-Fi
Release Date: 06/24/2016
It’s a classic dream: retreating from the world into near-total isolation to put everything into your next creation. Probably few of us could actually handle it for months at a time, let alone with magical results, for instance Justin Vernon. It’s hard enough to get something really good on tape without having takes occasionally interrupted by wandering donkeys.
Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer took these quirks from their three-month hideaway in stride. They were soundly inspired by the scenery and fauna of northwest Washington, and Off-Grid Lo-Fi reflects it with picturesque intimacy. The songs are poetic and sparse, drawing on rustic imagery and deep American roots, from Southern folk to gospel.
The duo widens their range with guitar, banjo, cello, and piano to banish any risk of sounding too one-note. From sinuously flirting with Latin grooves in “Shake” to Fer’s channeling Michael Hedges’ acoustic guitar wizardry in “Trainwreck” the duo demonstrates their ability to write a complex album. “Need a Mountain” eases in with a prairie air and builds to a subtly stirring chant with handclaps, while other pieces offer a little revival feel shot with electricity.
In other places they go bare-bones with starker melodies. Fer’s smoky voice stands out more while McGraw provides the steady anchor, and the harmonies between the two give the album its warm immediate feel the most. It’s a listen suited to a quiet cabin and preferably a cozy fire. Amps or not, it’s about sharing something immediate and in the moment with no gimmicks. The busy world outside isn’t going anywhere. It can easily do without us for another 45 minutes.