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Forever Hitting Highs

Recommendations from established major artists can be a double-edged sword for upcoming acts. On the one hand the fans of the bigger act might be tempted to have a listen, but then again, as anyone who ever heard a record released by U2's Mother Records or checked out most of the new bands recommended by Morrissey will confirm, just because people have become hugely successful themselves doesn't necessarily mean that they can spot that quality in others.

However, Bruce Springsteen's radar was spot-on last summer, the Boss appearing onstage at Glastonbury with The Gaslight Anthem (and inviting the band's lead singer Brian Fallon to perform with the E Street Band on the main stage later that evening). And after The Low Anthem supported him at Hyde Park a couple of days later he was effusive in his praise of their melodies, arrangements and poetic lyrics.

Now the fact that The Low Anthem are managed by one Kate Landau, daughter of Springsteen's long-time manager Jon, is I'm sure, entirely coincidental, Kate having been at school with the band's founder members Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky. They were already rightly garnering serious reviews for their third album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. A performance in one of the smaller tents at the Electric Picnic was rapturously received and the band's UK label, Bella Union, had another outstanding American band on their roster to add to Fleet Foxes and Midlake.

As with those bands The Low Anthem offer a new take on folk-based Americana (although Midlake have taken a turn for more English stylings on The Courage of Others) and aren't afraid to allow their songs all the room they need to breathe. There are times when the harmonies recall Simon and Garfunkel at their most ethereal, especially on the album's opening track, Charlie Darwin, which sets out the band's stall and succeeds in evoking the truly timeless, across-the-ages feel which was the speciality of The Band.

The album has a distinctly literary feel which is accentuated by the cover of How Come I'll Never Be, a lyric by Jack Kerouac, which was set to music by Tom Waits. The arrangements veer from Pogues-like folk stomps (The Horizon is a Beltway) to what sound like contemporary spirituals (the showstopping To the Ghosts Who Write History Books). The band's skills in this area are enhanced by third permanent member Jocie Adams, another talented multi-instrumentalist who in her spare time composes chamber music for the Phoenix Symphony.

One hopes that on their current tour The Low Anthem will unveil some new songs as it'll be fascinating to see where they intend to travel after gifting us with one of the most captivating collections of songs of last year. Given their talents and the fact that they've had their core for the best part of a decade, their prospects are extremely bright.

The Low Anthem play Vicar Street on Monday night


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