Old Time Machine - Old Time Machine
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: Oct. 9, 2012
There's a certain ethos to roots music. An army of strings (banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar, fiddle); lyrics about displaced emotions; a nod to rural or small-town life; a sense of defeat; a yarn about Mother Nature. And certainly the list goes on. But at the heart of it, there is a definitive pulse, a distinct sense of spirit that keeps the genre from growing tired or distant. The Canadian duo Old Time Machine seem to understand said ethos and their self-titled debut album is veritable proof of this notion. The album opens with the dusty "Sun Burns Out," in which an acoustic guitar strums and the light prattle of a drum unravels a standard heartland ditty. As far as opening salvos go, "Sun Burns Out," leaves a bit to be desired, but certainly sets the ground work for an album that truly gets better as it goes along.
The disc's first winning moment is "Doin' All I Can," a jaunty and inspired effort that could probably be used as a single. There's a definitive hook and a cheery feel to it that feels both commercial and familiar. Though it ends before the three-minute mark, there's a definite sense of promise and passion and highlights the greatness that is still waiting in the wings. "Pouring Rain," follows and feels like a mix of the first two. There's times where the song feels bland and uninteresting and others where it has a palpable sense of achievement and importance. One thing is for certain, when "Pouring Rain," ends, one can certainly stop and give the duo credit for both arrangement and structure.
Like any true roots album, "Mountain Shack," is the back porch beacon and feels culled from an early summer morning. While the vocals at times feel underwhelming, the verses and vernal aura it creates help make the song both amiable and engaging. The disc's second apex moment is most assuredly "Through the Window," a subdued and understated gem that is nothing short of gorgeous. Vocally the duo hits on everything that makes them great and from start to finish there is nary a flaw to be found. If there is one song to be plucked from Old Time Machine, make sure it is most definitely Through the Window.
And it is on "Through the Window," where the disc turns upward and makes a true dent. The banjo-laden "Feel So Cold," sounds threadbare, haggard and weary, almost as if the previous five songs have worn the duo thin. That sense of disappointment and defeat is revisited in "Where The Hell Are We," a near-masterpiece and arguably the disc's best song.
Penultimate cut "May As Well Be Night," is hazy and languorous and the pronounced sense of fatigue on the previous two efforts is revisited once again. Heartbreak and loss are certainly the hallmarks of first-rate roots music and Old Time Machine seem to understand this. And almost fittingly, Old Time Machine finishes things off with "Tearing Me Down," a mandolin-fueled effort that is surprisingly hopeful, uplifting and in many ways, majestically triumphant.
When the disc rounds to a close, the consensus is too hard to ignore. Old Time Machine have crafted a dazzling work of first-rate roots music. If this is just the beginning, then we are indeed in store for something truly potent. These Canucks are on the precipice of something truly ground-breaking. The watershed moments on this LP are veritable proof of exactly that.