Round Mountain : Windward

round_mountain_windward.jpgRound Mountain is a band that I had never heard of prior to writing this review.  I enjoy folk music, however, and decided to give their latest release, Windward, a spin. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Round Mountain is an acoustic folk duo composed of brothers Char and Robby Rothshchild. Both have a plethora of personal experiences from extensive travels that frequently inspire the lyrics of a song or the instrument selected for a piece. The Rothschilds are meticulous in their craft, their attention to detail exemplifying the extensive musical abilities – in addition to their vocals –  brought to the table by these two brothers.  Char Rothschild’s contributions on this latest release are on accordion, banjo, dobro, guitar, highland pipes, saz, and trumpet; brother Robby lends his talents on the bouzouki, cajón, calabash, djembe, bora, percussion, and tupan. This eclectic mix of instruments is assembled to reflect a duo with a diverse musical background wrapped in a “down home, folk” package.

With one other album under its belt since 2004’s self-titled debut, Windward is Round Mountain’s third release. Produced by Jon Gagan, who also plays upright bass on the album, Windward  promotes the folk genre, but explores boundaries by incorporating sounds and instruments not indicative of the traditional style. The album opens with, “Don’t Lie Down,” an Irish folk rhythm that has interesting tempo changes in combination with a proverbial lyrical score of survival and perseverance. “La Acequia” incorporates the banjo, giving an initial bluegrass feel, although lyrical chants create images of the plains and Southwest Indians. An acequia is an aqueduct used to supply small communities with much-needed water, and knowing this suggests the song is reflective of a common need of all life. My favorite track on this release is “L’orage,” which draws upon many different musical styles ranging from traditional Turkish melodies to Irish folk. Another track that incorporates interesting elements is “I’m Gonna Dig,”beginning with a lone trumpet and incorporates a call-and-response style reminiscent of work songs sung by slaves in the Americas. The album closes with “Goodnight Animals,” a thoughtful track reflecting on the large disconnect we, as humans, frequently experience with our natural environments due to our isolation within an artificial habitat.

This latest release is a slow, frequently melancholic production that certainly delivers on talented musicians, but fails to bring these talents together into a captivating and cohesive unit. This album is beautiful in instrumental composition and the lyrics are well-written, but it never seems to build up any steam. Despite some enjoyable songs, this release failed to pull me in as a listener. I’m inclined to give their debut album a listen, but just don’t see Windward receiving regular playtime in my CD player.

Windward is out now on Red Shield Music.