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Soulful, old-fashioned country folk singer Ad Vanderveen has returned with his newest album Release, which marks a big step up in production and his abilities as a songwriter, definitively crystallizing a style and aesthetic that stands out in a modern era. Vanderveen’s vocals are reminiscent of Neil Young, and Release could have easily found a comfortable home in the 70s among other rootsy folk records by Young, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison. The production is more restrained, befitting the style, but like the sound of Harvest or Blood on the Tracks that doesn’t preclude a Phil Spector sensibility of lush strings and layered instrumentation as long as the result is organic.
The album, along with just about every song on it, begins unassumingly at first. Each track opens simply with guitar before the drums, slide guitar, strings, backing vocals, and keyboards all build around it like a room slowly filling up. The effect, especially on some of the most emotionally killer songs like “One Last Song” and “Nothing But A Dream” causes the listener to be caught off guard by the true subtle power and raw strength of the songs here. The human frailties present, including melancholy, regret, nostalgia, disappointment, and quiet contentment, aren’t overwhelming—in fact, nothing that Vanderveen does begs to be noticed. Rather, they stir just under the surface like true lived experience, and Release is one the truest, most mature accounts in contemporary folk of what it means to struggle, to persevere, or to just get by.
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