Stripped-down songwriter takes more off
Singing Ax adds a seventh volume to the burgeoning canon of sparse, lo-fi solo recordings from Fleet Foxes drummer J. Tillman. Intimate and somber, it omits even the modest accompaniment (harmonica, banjo, dulcimer) employed on previous albums like Cancer and Delirium and Year in the Kingdom. With hushed vocals, acoustic guitar and a few scattered ambient sounds, there’s little variety beyond the up-tempo “Tillman’s Rag,” which comes across like a peppy Nick Drake cut. But Tillman’s storytelling chops add weight. The pastoral imagery of “One Task” is especially haunting: “I had one task / In our home / I had to drag a horse to the field with my father’s gun.” His prolific output has rendered him a masterful lyricist, but Singing Ax doesn’t add much more to his catalog—it’s just another well-wrought notch in a wonderfully scuffed belt.