Chris and Thomas: Land of Sea

What do you get when you take one guy from Memphis, one guy from Germany and stick them in the same art school that produced John Lennon and Paul McCartney?  In the 1990's, you get "Cook Au Van," Chris and Thomas's traveling cooking show aboard a van.

Today, you get tight vocal harmonies that conjure memories of Simon and Garfunkel and Nick Drake and comparisons to Iron and Wine and Ray Lamontagne.

Chris Anderson and Thomas Hien, who make up the duo Chris and Thomas, released Land of Sea in England in 2006 to critical acclaim, and the album is finally making its way across the pond, and is worth the wait.

The title track kicks off the disc, with tones that could have come from an America album; the opening "Gonna drive into the sun, 'til the driving day is done" could have easily been the missing verse from "Horse With No Name."  Thomas' soprano and Chris's alto vocals mesh perfectly to create one harmony that just oozes out of the speakers, intertwining with the mandolin and violin.    

"Take These Thoughts" is nothing short of stellar – it won the Song of the Year category at the 2006 Independent Music Awards, and after only listening for a few bars, it's easy to see why.  The mandolin picking accents the vocals wonderfully, creating a song that has dark undertones, yet somehow manages not to seem depressing.

"Riversong" follows and is a quick change of pace; it easily could have come off of the Iron and Wine/Calexico collaboration album, which is a compliment. 

What sets Chris and Thomas apart from, say, Ray Lamontagne or Iron and Wine?  The reality is – nothing much.  The two-part harmonies immediately separate them from Lamontagne or Sam Beam on the shear fact that there are two voices instead of one, but there's no new musical ground being covered.  However, Land of Sea doesn't really have any throw-away tracks, and that makes for a strong disc.

If you're looking for a disc to chill out to, this is definitely one to put on your list.