By Luke Winkie
Justin Rutledge is a fragile soul, his voice is lachrymose, his romances are soured, and more often than not he blames himself. His music is slow, oven-baked and warm -– but warm in the melancholic resigned way, his music isn’t expelling demons, and it’s him coming to terms with them; usually with just an acoustic guitar.
His latest record The Early Widows -– the bombastic “Snowman” aside -– is a thoroughly subtle affair; he doesn’t share Mark Kozelek’s iconic baritone, but they share demeanor, working through longform compositions (some like the excellent “Carry Me” reach nine minutes) like they’re an eternal plateau –- never getting near anything that resembles climax. But if you think all that woe-is-me, listless lollygagging might turn you off, it should be reaffirmed that Rutledge is the rare singer-songwriter who you can feel for, fitting in well with fellow dampened-folk auteurs Patterson Hood and Sufjan Stevens –- it’s a rare aesthetic and it makes The Early Widows a lot better than it implies on paper.
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