These United States
A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden
With the new intelligence raging through American popular folk/ Americana/ rock, the congestion among bands that build rock into their psych-folky harmonies is hard to penetrate. However, These United States may just be strong enough to break through it all - lead man Jesse Elliott shows a Paul Simon knack for a melody and a sense of song dynamics that can leave you breathless. Songs like First Sight, or The Business, come across like early 70s classics from the bleeding edge of 2008.
Elliott's voice recalls M Ward's - well, it's actually a dead ringer - but the music is a lot more varied; there's some Andrew Bird in there, surely. Led by Elliott and his friend David Strackany, These United States drafted in more than 30 Washington, DC and Midwest-based musicians, and deployed them sparely and wonderfully across the record. In places a fragile thing, in others as solid as metal, the imagination behind A Picture can seem fevered - you get to the end of it like you get to the end of a good modern art gallery - still slightly puzzled, but in no doubt that you now see things differently.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.