T. Hallenbeck "Packrat"
The bearded, denim-clad, multi-instrumentalist (guitars, dulcimer, mandolin, cello, viola, etc.) Hallenbeck (Indiana-born, Ohio-bred) now calls the same Northern California ?burb (Emeryville) that brought us Ben Chasny (Six Organs of Admittance) his home, and as with much of Chasny?s work, there?s a rustic, backwoodsy feel to Hallenbeck?s fourth self-released solo album. However, his folky, backporch pronouncements are not as foggy and shrouded in mystery as Chasny?s, although the hesitant, wyrdfolky
?Madam I?m Adam,? with its percussive drums and bowls swirling over, under and around his dulcimer and mandolin accompaniment comes pretty damn close to Chasny?s heady atmospherics! Still, the first thing I noticed about Hallenbeck?s voice was the strikingly familiar tones and phrasings of fellow Midwestern singer/songwriter, Cary Wolf (The Petals, although it?s his solo, acoustic, psychedelic side show Stuntz?s Blue Leg Expedition that kept creeping into my mind as I got deeper into the album). Hallenbeck also writes simpler, but not simplistic melodies, and tracks like ?Jealous of Joe? also benefit from some carefully placed harmonies.
There?s a suitably bluesy, funky stomp to ?Redneck Divorce,? whose lyrics surrealistically juxtapose stereotypical images of trailer parks and beer runs with scenes from ?The Wizard of Oz,? and Hallenbeck?s clever twist of a phrase serves him well on the metaphorical ?Lazarus.? (He?s the dude that Christ raised from the dead, for anyone who?s forgotten their first grade bible studies.) In Hallenbeck?s version, he and a friend go out for a wild night of indiscretion and biblical references to Cain and Abel abound with Hallenbeck and friend ?raising Cain? as Christ ?raised the dead [Lazarus].? The closing song/story ?Robert Johnson? is an amusing fairy tale in the narrative style of the Mark Twain of Redneck Caberet, Billy C. Wirtz (check out his magnum oafus, ?Pianist Envy.?)
Overall, we?re treated to some meek, introspective folk that will appeal to fans of like-minded souls such as John Darnielle (the Mountain Goats), Eef Barzelay (Clem Snide), and, of course Cary Wolf and Ben Chasny. 7/10 -- Jeff Penczak (30 October, 2006)