: (L-R) Ben Knox Miller, Jeff Prystowsky and
Jocie Adams (not pictured, Cyrus Scofield) Album
: Oh My God, Charlie
Darwin For Fans Of
: Nick Drake, Joe Henry, Gary JulesTinker and Evers.
Reese and Robinson. Trammel and
Whitaker. All of baseball’s great double-play duos moved in a way that was almost musical. Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky extended those harmonies from the baseball diamond to an actual band.
Sure, their wood-bat summer league in rural Connecticut was a long way
from the majors, and their baseball exploits now just involve a fantasy
league. But to imagine their fluidity on the field, one only needs to
hear The Low Anthem’s latest LP, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. “From that first double play," Prystowsky jokes, we knew that it would be magic.”
But nobody remembers Tinker to Evers without adding first baseman
Chance; likewise, The Low Anthem wasn’t complete until the addition of
fellow Providence resident and classically trained clarinetist Jocie
Adams, who joined the band when their second album, What the Crow Brings, came out last year. The three members combine to play 27 different instruments on Charlie Darwin,
including zither, trumpet, pump organ and a
Tibetan singing bowl. Each
of them also took turns behind the drum kit before the recent addition
of drummer Cyrus
Scofield. They even hand-painted the covers of the
album’s first 2,000 copies.
“We spend a lot of time just playing musical chairs with all of our
instruments set up in our apartment,” Miller says, “and just wait until
the frequencies start buzzing and you say, ‘this is the arrangement.’ A
lot of the textures could be played different ways, sometimes even
different genres. We’ll play the same song with a punk feel and then
we’ll play it as a folk ballad.”
Charlie Darwin opens with a pair of haunting Nick Drake-like
ballads, but then the band cranks up the ancient pump organ and starts
playing with foot-stomping abandon on the album’s lone cover, “Home
I’ll Never Be,” a Tom Waits adaptation of a Jack Kerouac poem. They’re
constantly mixing up tempo, volume and instrumentation, but always in
lock-stop harmony, like a beautifully turned double play.