Fern Girl and Ice Man is one of two albums released simultaneously by the Lowest Pair, in an apparently bounteous and fertile spring for the bluegrass-influenced duo. The pair’s two previous albums of original material set a bare-bones tone, with spare arrangements highlighting warm acoustic guitar and old-time banjo underneath an unusually compelling relationship of voices; winding, twining harmonies like speakers dipping in and out of conversation.
The Lowest Pair spent a cold Minnesota winter and the following fall writing and recording the songs that would become both Fern Girl and Ice Man and its sibling album, Uncertain As It Is Uneven. The time between seasons of work – the duo took a break, during the warmer weather, to tour its sophomore release The Sacred Heart Sessions – plus two different producers resulted in batches of songs with distinctly different personalities. Uncertain sticks to the spare and solemn roots of their established sound, but Fern Girl stretches into new territory; the production is more filled out and also more playful, with whimsical sonic elements like toys and wineglasses joining Kendl Winter’s breathy, baby-ghost warble and Palmer T. Lee’s nasal, low and lonesome voice, plus extra guitar, whining steel and drums. The fundamentals of old-time string music remain, augmented by an intriguing hint as to where the Lowest Pair might be capable of going.