A couple years back, a little group called Horse Feathers released their debut album Words Are Dead on the upper northwest label Lucky Madison. At the time, the group was mainly the work of multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Justin Ringle. I was one of many people to find charm and beauty in the release, and the group is now back with their follow-up, an album that largely keeps the same sparse mood while distilling their sound a bit further.
Ringle is joined here by Heather and Peter Broderick on a variety of instrumentation, but as mentioned above House With No Home is still largely a minimalist effort, with barely any percussion to speak of and subtle flourishes that fill out the edges of a largely acoustic-guitar based album. Of course, the vocals of Ringle are the other focal point, and I'm again reminded of the somewhat sleepy vocals of Sam Beam of Iron & Wine. "Curs In The Weeds" opens the release with sparse strums of acoustic guitar while some mournful cello and violin fill in the gaps as Ringle is joined on harmonies by Heather Broderick.
As with other albums of this sparse nature, it takes strong melodies and harmonies to hold things up when there's no major rhythms to speak of, and for the most part the group is up to the challenge. Despite the title, "A Burden" is actually one of the lighter and more uplifting songs on the album, with more curling strings and backing female vocal harmonies, while "Heathen's Kiss" takes on a slightly darker edge with vocals by Ringle that fray just a bit at the edges and some attacking violins and drum hits that cut through the mix a bit more.
After praising the elegance of the release, I feel like a bit of a turncoat saying that this quiet understatement is also one of the problems with the release, but it does tend to make the eleven song, thirty-six minute album feel a smidgen longer than it should. I wasn't expecting the group to completely break from their ways on this follow-up, but melodically and musically it's a little too close to the debut to really feel like it breaks any new ground. If you're a fan of laconic folk music tinged with a touch of Americana, you could certainly do worse, though.