Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat
Following in the vein of many adult alternative musicians, Carbon Leaf offers a pleasant album in the form of ‘Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat,’ but their music does not stand out from the crowd.
From the moment you see the cover art (a blue-green filtered picture of the band standing before a forest), you can sense the album’s general feel: a down-to-earth, honest sound which is complemented by equally earnest lyrics.
The musical ability of the band is recognizable immediately. The acoustic guitar and mandolin work of both Terry Clark and Carter Gravatt are breezy, thoughtful and gorgeous, giving a flowing feel to the songs.
Jordan Medas’ work on electric bass is notable. His lower melodies bring to mind the style of a ‘Revolver’-era Paul McCartney.
Besides their undeniable skill, however, little can be gathered about Carbon Leaf. The music is easily forgettable, lacking distinct highs or lows.
Many of the songs share a similar whimsical guitar pattern backed up with lyrics that are hardly noticed unless listened to closely.
Barry Privett’s vocals are pleasant and the three-part harmonies with the band are sublime, but after a few minutes, little is remembered of their songs.
The drumming by Scott Milstead is steady but does not show any noticeable creativity. Carbon Leaf is a band filled with musicians who are talented and clearly capable of more.
Songs like ‘A Girl and Her Horse’ and the title track have catchy melodic hooks but they are surrounded by tracks that are so bland that it is difficult to distinguish one from the other.
Where the album has musical shortcomings, the lyrics pick up the slack. ‘A Girl and Her Horse’ uses the image of a disappearing girl on horseback as an effective metaphor for love’s subtlety, and the moving ‘The War Was in Color’ brings out the harsh realities of the violence in war and the distinct perspective of a person who has experienced combat firsthand.
Privett’s writing effectively gives the listener the right imagery but his lyrics are usually lost within the music. His words would be better in a written collection than on this album.
Carbon Leaf, which has opened for bands like Counting Crows and the Dave Matthews Band, is reminiscent of the wave of adult alternative bands that swept the airwaves during the 1990s. Their sound does not offend the ears and it does little, as far as catching the attention of the listener.
The band claims to be innovative musically, though after listening to the album several times, innovation is nowhere to be found. In many respects, the album is just another backing track to the summer’s big romantic comedy.
This album is proof of a band with solid musicians that needs to assert itself to make a CD that is friendlier to successive listenings.