CD Review of Nothing Rhymes with Woman by Carbon Leaf
Carbon Leaf: Nothing Rhymes with Woman
Recommended if you like
Poco, Pure Prairie League, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Label
Vanguard
Carbon Leaf:
Nothing Rhymes with Woman

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

I
t’s always somewhat puzzling why a band that’s been around a decade or more, making wonderfully engaging albums, is still somehow cast well below the radar. And yet here’s Carbon Leaf, a band that’s as easily accessible and clearly beguiling as any other ensemble that’s managed to move up to the fore. With a string of sterling sets under their collective belts since the beginning of the millennium, one has to wonder if perhaps the only factor impeding their progress is the ambiguity that accompanies the band’s moniker.

The band hails from Richmond, Virginia, musically fertile environs that have also nurtured the likes of the Dave Matthews Band and the Pat McGee Band. However, Carbon Leaf sounds like neither of these outfits, save their clear-headed adult-oriented approach. For lack of a better description, they could be termed an agreeable conglomeration of roots rock, Celtic influences and the kind of back-porch affinity that draws listeners in and keeps them coming back. They inspire a kind of jam band mentality stocked with everyman inclinations – think the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band morphed into the Allman Brothers – although the band’s penchant for buoyant melodies and radio-ready refrains makes their appeal all that more palatable for the masses.

Carbon Leaf’s been on a creative roll since signing with Vanguard Records, under whose auspices they’ve released a trio of cheerfully tuneful albums over the past five years, beginning with Indian Summer in 2004 and the somewhat somber Love Loss Hope Repeat two years later. This latest effort further consolidates their sound and shows them to be at a new creative peak. For starters, there’s an energy and effusiveness that permeates these grooves from start to finish, beginning with album opener "Indecision," continuing through the rousing "Another Man’s Woman" and its assertive follow-up "Miss Hollywood." Driving and determined, "Lake of Silver Bells" soars with anthemic resolve, while the sprightly "What Have You Learned" and "Seed" provide the album’s pop perfect quotient. Still, this isn’t a case of relying on effusive melodies to mask vapid sentiments. "Pink" resonates with the story of a woman courageously battling a deadly disease while other tracks – particularly "X-Ray" and the aforementioned "Miss Hollywood" -- touch on themes of nostalgia and reflection.

Of course, given a title like Nothing Rhymes with Woman, that assertive stance is all but a given, albeit with a nod to feminine strength and determination. And regardless of rhyme…or reason…this is one very special Woman.

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