Record Review - 1 September 04 2002

Take Buddy and Julie Miller, feed them a fortified diet of mid-period R.E.M., bring in producer Mitch Easter to solidify the connection, and you’re getting close to North Carolina’s Glory Fountain. The pure yet tensile vocals of Lynn Blakey (a former bandmate of Easter’s in Let’s Active and Linda Stipe’s in Oh-OK), along with the wiry accompaniment by multi-instrumentalist/ guitarist John Chumbris (who did time in Washington, D.C.’s Slickee Boys), propel the duo’s twangy, sweet-and-sour sound. The music — often driven by terse guitar lines — is tranquil yet edgy, like a dormant volcano threatening to explode.

That doesn’t happen, but the yin-yang tension injects friction into songs that avoid No Depression cliches due to the conflict in Glory Fountain’s unique approach. A few rockers pepper the predominantly moody ballads that dominate this sophomore project. Some, like the sparse and foreboding “Rosary,” could have come from an old Richard and Linda Thompson disc. (If Blakey and Chumblis were a married couple in the process of splitting up, The Glory of 23 would be their Shoot Out the Lights.)

The Glory of 23 is a moving, ominous, at times beautiful release whose shifting moods and subtle intensity provide cliff-hanging moments where you’re not sure which direction the music will turn. It’s that restrained sense of imbalance that nudges but never pushes the listener, creating a challenging folk-rock album that doesn’t take its audience for granted.

Glory Fountain plays the Echo Lounge Fri., Sept. 6.