Gently springing out of the speakers and recoiling into the ethers just as quickly as they escaped them, acoustic guitar strings frame a rustic vocal from Andrew Wiscombe, their interplay resulting in a mild country harmony in the song “White Mâché” as familiar to fans as a summer’s sunset. In this track, and all ten included on Strangest Congregations, Wiscombe works to blend together the best parts of the American spirit into a melodic treasure chest we can sample from anytime we please, and in my opinion, I think this latest effort qualifies as his best so far.
The strings we hear are almost always the bedrock of most every sensational moment Strangest Congregations has to offer listeners, and I would point you to the single “Ain’t It a Sideshow,” the easygoing ballad “Workin’ Man’s Mile,” “A Highway Hymn” and subtly surreal “Indiana” for several prime examples of what I’m talking about. Wiscombe has a way of weaving his vocal into the fabric of a guitar melody like few others in or out of his scene can, and in this LP, he shows us that his delicate approach doesn’t always have to be countered with black and white compositions at all – in fact, quite the contrary.
Andrew Wiscombe’s vocal attack is a little more conservative in Strangest Congregations than it has been in past releases, with songs like “Jesus Martinez,” “You Never Wanna Hold Me in the Day,” “Love Me Complete” and “A Highway Hymn” exhibiting some of his more tender singing skills in full-color audio, but I wouldn’t say that he doesn’t wear this look exceptionally well. He’s already proven himself to be more than adept at belting out a verse when he needs to, and on this occasion, he’s simply showing us that he’s got a more dynamic range than some had previously given him credit for.
There’s a lot of instrumental grandiosity in this record, and namely in “Ain’t It a Sideshow,” “You Never Wanna Hold Me in the Day,” “Indiana” and the opening cut “Like a River,” and while it comes in strong contrast to the minimalism that many of his peers have been experimenting with in recent years, I think this is a big part of the reason why Strangest Congregations is as much of a standout as it undeniably is. Wiscombe isn’t interested in following the trends of the American underground, and if that wasn’t obvious before, he’s made it perfectly clear with the resounding statement this LP undisputedly is.
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Alternative country buffs far and wide need to make a point to hear the new Andrew Wiscombe record this June, if for no other reason than to experience the one of a kind aesthetical balance that this singer/songwriter strikes in all ten of its tenacious new songs. You don’t have to be the biggest country fan in the world to appreciate what he’s accomplished in this latest effort, but for those of us who live for the genre’s most intriguing output, this is an LP that you just can’t afford to miss.