Is a Woman

Hailing from Nashville, the large ensemble (usually eight to 15 members) in Lambchop is hard to classify musically. The group mixes elements of soul, alternative country, jazz and ‘60s pop orchestration for a sound aptly described by lead vocalist/songwriter Kurt Wagner as “dark and breezy.”

This album begins with lovely solitary piano and maintains an elegant, near minimalist tone—piano, standup bass and (barely audible) natural percussion—throughout 11 introspective songs. Called the “quietest orchestra on the planet,” Lambchop is good when it comes to unobtrusive instrumentation (ebbing horns, pedal steel, sampler, guitars) and sheer emotion.

Most of the songs deal with heavy topics, from the death of parents to a close friend’s suicide and various metaphors found in nature, divorce, the measure of man through his relationship to woman—while musically creating a contemplative, dreamy “folio” of quiet sound that borders on repetitive.

Wagner wrote everything on a laptop beneath a mimosa tree after recently quitting his day job of 14 years. His vocals are unusual—a dryly emotive baritone reminiscent of Vic Chesnutt (with whom the band often performs). Fans of Tindersticks or Will Oldham would probably like this record—or those looking for the slow burn of something melancholy and reflective that paints with small strokes.