Several decades ago Joan Armatrading released a four-song one-sided vinyl EP called “How Cruel.” Joan – a three-time Grammy Award nominee had previous albums released but, the tag on this EP stated: The tunes are “so good they couldn’t wait for an album!”
Anyone familiar with this highly regarded British singer-songwriter knows Joan’s quality has always been first class. However, the tag was not hype – it was accurate – the four songs on this EP were exceptional.
I am familiar with the music of Adam & I and had compared them favorably with the late Richard and Mimi Farina originally – and I stand by that assessment. Upon listening to their new (release date July 10th) EP – “Meanwhile in Virginia,” I had expected more of the same. I was wrong: This new EP is their “How Cruel,” – these are five songs that seem to have improved on their original duo style and “they couldn’t wait for an album.”
The first track “On the Road (Not There Yet)” sung alternating by Adam and his partner Andrea takes the perfectly compelling and hypnotic Richard and Mimi Farina tradition to another level. A modern-day level. And that comparison is like getting the blue ribbon in a competition. This song, like many of their tunes, is stripped down with chiming acoustic guitar and the little tale that unravels as they sing possesses a sensitivity seldom found in much of today’s music. No heavy drums, flashes of keyboard, and dueling banjos – the song is thick with inventiveness with wonderful vocalizing and obviously the song itself is the center of their attention.
“6 Foot,” emerges with more energy and while it’s about being “six foot in the ground,” the mandolin lead and the dual vocal is optimistic to boot. A rousing sing-a-long type tune that bemoans dying and living every moment in the now. It’s short and furious – with a catchy melody that is quite different from “On the Road” though somehow the two seem linked like distant cousins.
Andrea Melia – the “I” in the duo – begins singing the piano driven dramatic “Best Thing,” and it’s charged with beauty.
Andrea does not sing with bombastic drama – the drama she sews is all compressed in her ability to sing with genuine emotion. The knotted dual vocals are distinctive and tight – quite a well-recorded song. I am impressed with the level of songwriting this song exemplifies by these two young artists. I never thought I would hear such maturity with a lyric married to melody ever again.
Is this going to uproot rap and hip hop from the charts? No, it won’t. But it does renew my belief that there are some people that transcend commercial music and they create something artistic and meaningful. Am I alluding to the fact that rap and hip-hop are not artistic. Not at all. My issue with those music genres is that they do a lot of pontificating but never offer any viable solutions. They seem to also be a little on the disrespectful side of relationships, seem to be preoccupied with materialism, being tough instead of being sensitive. The fact that much of that “music” is also lacking in solid melody structures and they “borrow” (their word would be “sample”) way too much from other more diversfied sources. Why? Because they don’t have the creativity at that level?
Adam & I’s song could be sung a hundred years from now and those who hear it will “get it.” Some of today’s music – well, it’s “today’s music” and may not age as gracefully. Very little of the old early 70’s bubblegum and disco music survives today with the same respect that the British invasion music or rock and roll of the 50’s has. I don’t hear anyone covering “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I Got Love In My Tummy,” today.
“Carolina Jean,” is a more developed acoustic guitar-mandolin based bluesy stroll with a shimmering presence. The melody plods along in a haunting country-folk manner the same as Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.” It’s cool, dark and has that humid deep South feeling from the depths of the Delta. The Spanish Moss, the smell of a still deep in the woods and someone frying catfish.
This is a perfectly balanced EP – “Crazy Kids,” comes from an entirely different box of bait than the previous songs. More of a folk-rocker with furiously held notes and arranged with well-developed instrumentation. The hard banging low piano notes with a barrelhouse feel is mixed a little below the surface and understated — but it’s there in the mix and it rolls along nicely as Adam and Andrea’s vocals mix together about as perfectly as scotch and soda. Then – surprise of surprises – piano and harmonica together – my eyebrows went up into my forehead. This is what I like to hear when previewing a new collection. Little children will ask you to “tell me a story.” As a reviewer, I ask that you surprise me with your art. Take me somewhere with it. This was so stirring and moving – perhaps one of the duo’s best tunes ever.
And the impressive thing about this entire EP?
The songs are short – streamlined, potent and to the point. Not a bad seed in the garden. I am only guessing – but, it sounds as if these came from a deep well of inspiration. Adam & I’s EP is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s strong and tasty the way Espresso coffee is and it’s a potpourris of some of the finest duo folk-rock, alt-country songwriting I’ve heard in awhile.
If the late Richard and Mimi Farina were to your liking, or, the music that Mimi made later with the late Tom Jans, or you prefer the more virile, piss and vinegar Richard and Linda Thompson songwriting (which may be Adam & I’s next logical step), or Clive Gregson and Christine Collister’s old-English rural approach. Then this new re-introduction “Meanwhile in Virginia,” which is definitely a refined trailer of things to come from Adam & I – will be a delightful listen. It was for me.
The CD was produced by Adam & I — All songs were written & arranged by Adam & I (Andrea Melia). Photography by Horn Photography and Design
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review / commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of No Depression. All photography is owned by the respective photographers and is their copyrighted image; credited where photographer’s name was known & being used here solely as reference and will be removed on request. YouTube images are standard YouTube license.
John Apice / No Depression / July 2015