Bragg’s folk chamber group issues a remarkable statement without raising the volume
Meredith Bragg divides his quietly luminous first record, Vol. 1, into chapters, which would be a pretentious affectation if he hadn’t produced what amounts to a loosely constructed portrait of the artist as a young songwriter. Critics have compared Bragg to Nick Drake, but he only superficially resembles the long-lost British troubadour. Bragg, a refugee from Virginia-based band Speedwell, boasts aspects of Drake’s compelling vocal style, but his songs and personal, self-effacing lyrics are much more direct and earthbound. With a nod to Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam, Bragg seasons his strummed guitar with gentle accompaniment of sympathetic piano and vibes plus Elizabeth Olson’s lovely cello. Some of Bragg’s best songs (My Only Enemy,” “I Won’t Let You Down,” “Shattering”) are also his longest ones, recalling the folk-jazz ragas of artists diverse as Tim Buckley, Buzzy Linhart and Van Morrison. Bragg’s music doesn’t grab you by the collar; it slowly insinuates.