How much of the Andrew Weathers Ensemble is Andrew Weathers, and how much is the ensemble? As Austin Glover and Eric Perreault step out on their debut release, one can begin to discern the differences. The harmonies and Petrels-like drones of 2012’s Guilford County Songs would not have been possible without the ensemble (including Jake Riggs at that time and a dozen more an album later). The fingerpicking and religious tone seem to belong more to Weathers, whose own bluegrass-inflected tape Littlefield was released the same day as Freight 1110 Through Greensboro on a subsidiary of the same label. Weathers also mastered the album; it’s safe to say that all are still friends.
But wow, here come the cellos on the one-minute opening track, and we’re already hooked. It’s a wise overture that prepares the listener for the long haul. Those who enjoy reading will especially enjoy this tape, as literary references abound, beginning with the layered harmonies of “book song”. From time to time, a very particular book finds its way into my hands. As the cello fades and the words fold into each other, one has the feeling of being lost in a good book; when the music returns, the strings swell like the drama of a key scene. Later in the album, one encounters texts by e.e. cummings and W.B. Yeats. A further artistic reference is Greensboro itself, the home of both the artists as well as Henry Flynt. If it’s wrong to feel intelligent while listening to an album, I don’t want to be right.
“rain song” is exactly what one wants a rain song to be, with silent stretches interrupted gently by Glover’s soft sax. The piano of “The Living Flower” sounds like a bloom, the frequent harmonica like an old friend. Great variety is on display, not only in the alternating of vocal and instrumental works, but in the varying timbres of each piece. The train first becomes apparent in the percussion of “The Conditions that Require Illusion” and again on the closing “rails.” But the overall impression of the album is that of living in a literary town, one in which authors and musicians alike were inspired by the sights and sounds of the old rail cars, delivering news of the world outside. The album’s inversion is that it also implies that those on the rail cars were inspired by the sights and sounds of Greensboro, and that both forms of inspiration are still taking place. (Richard Allen)