Like the taste of a piece of fine chocolate, the longer the music of Gregory Alan Isakov’s This Empty Northern Hemisphere is allowed to linger the more nuanced and delicious it becomes.
His rich vocals are complemented by the Freight, his ever-so-talented band with Jen Gilleran (drums), Jeb Bows (violin) and Phil Parker (cello). And there’s the perfectly matched harmonies from Brandi Carlile on five tracks, adding a touch of sweetness.
Picking a standout on the album is next to impossible as Gregory is one of those writers that can boil every emotion to its essence, placing every word for precise impact like the line he sings over a delicate finger-picked melody in Big Black Car: “Heartbreak, you know, drives a big black car.”
There are story songs in the tradition of Bruce Springsteen and John Prine (Idaho, Evelyn), tunes filled with introspection (Words) and even a few moments of hopeful longing (Virginia May).
From the opening notes of the pared-down Dandelion Wine to the fade out of Leonard Cohen’s One of Us Cannot Be Wrong, This Empty Northern Hemisphere is an outstanding record.
Check out TheFreight.net for more info and tour dates.
Gregory will be playing the Monolith Music Festival on Sept. 12 along with M. Ward, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and many, many others.