Joseph Allred - Branches & Leaves

LP Edition of 231.

Don’t hold me to it, but by my count this the sixth LP we have done with the splendid Brighton-based musician named Joseph Allred. Initially known as a master of stringed instruments, Joseph has continuously expanded his musical arsenal.

When asked about basics regarding Branches & Leaves, he wrote, “I played harmonium, piano, guitars, glockenspiel, banjo, tambourine, bass drum, and clarinet on this album and did all the vocals myself. I’m glad I got to collaborate with some friends and would like to have done so more, but the pandemic made that impossible. Recorded at the end of 2019 and in the first few months of 2020 in Overton County, Tennessee and Boston.”

The ten songs on Branches & Leaves are originals, apart from two traditional tunes, “When the World’s on Fire,” and “Can’t Feel at Home,” which Allred first heard performed by the Carter Family. And while it if difficult to attach too specific a tag to this wonderfully varied LP, words like “Southern,” “gnostic,” “rural” and “haunted” keep floating into my head. Not always at the same time, but enough to think I might use them to point in the material’s general direction. 

The mix of harmonium and Allred’s vocal delivery gives some of songs the sonic qualities of a spiritual, even if the lyrics are not similarly disposed. Joseph’s work is always very personal and idiosyncratic, so I am hesitant to make too many statements about it. Other than to say the way he weaves all these threads into the textures of American Primitive guitar music is amazing to hear. 

Branches & Leaves may be one of the more plain-spoken albums in Joseph Allred’s canon, but like all his music, the songs have many layers of sound and meaning that will unfold themselves for your pleasure for a long while to come. 

Beautiful stuff.

-Byron Coley, 2021 

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