The Low Anthem Covers All the Bases

Music  |  Features
The Low Anthem Covers All the Bases
Members: (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 Jules

Tinker 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.

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