For forthcoming release Eight Golden Greats
(out July 10), the Old Believers have gone classic—way classic. The whole record is cast in a wholesome, burnished Pleasantville
haze, recalling '50s picket-fence domesticity, Sunday morning AM radio pop and Nashville country crooners all at once. Sure, local lovers Nelson Kempf and Keeley Boyle recall modern influences, as well (the former evokes Ryan Adams and Mason Jennings, in particular). But most of Eight Golden Greats
takes those sunny images of yore and dresses 'em up in the Believers' characteristic down-home charm, endearing melodies and creative production.
Boyle and Kempf take turns playing lead, and both shine on particular tracks (Boyle's standout is casual love-song "The Trouble I've Met"), but "Betcher Ass" finds Kempf, in particular, coming into is own as a vocalist. While Boyle has had a pretty confident hold on both June Carter Cash cuteness and sultry, jazzy inflections since the duo's six-song EP, Some Songs by the Old Believers
, Kempf was a bit shakier—until now. (Perhaps his voice was still maturing; really, these cats are young
.) On "Betcher Ass," he comes right out with it, belting, "Don't you ever/ Try to hide it," with both authority and an always welcome Ricky Nelson-esque oldies dreaminess.
So, when Boyle—not to mention a mood-setting string section and shuffling bit of percussion—joins him at around two minutes in, both she and the instrumentation only embellish what Kempf's already established: a winning case for the fact that, when he leaves, he's "out the door." That, he says, if anything, is "for sure."
The whole thing ends with a succinct bit of Hawaiian-sounding guitar (before a brief outro of "oohs" and mournful violin over a pattering rhythm), recalling, once again, that lackadaisical surf-pop of yesteryear. And it puts a "so there" kind of period on Kempf's statement that the tears he cries are, indeed, "worth more than that." In fact, you can "betcher ass" on it.
Photo: by Josh Elliott.