Written by James Killen
Singer/ songwriter duo, Moors and McCumber, has been touring the folk music circuit, promoting their latest disc, “Pandemonium”. This effort represents a departure from the work on the last three albums in that the production has brought the music in from the campfire to the studio world of pop music.
First let me go on record as a “campfire music” fan. I grew up going to scout camps and church camps and just plain camp camps, singing old standards around the fire pit. There is a simple beauty to the interplay of acoustic instruments and blended voices without a lot of orchestration and effects. “Against the Grain”, “Gravity” and the M&M debut disc were all excellent “campfire music” collections and I highly recommend them.
“Pandemonium” is produced by Gary Louris, whom some will recognize as the guitarist and vocalist from the Jayhawks. Louris layered the instrumental parts of the song to take best advantage of Kort and James’s multi-instrument abilities. The vocals are employed in complex harmonies more often, rather than the lead and backing vocal arrangements of the earlier works. The more prominent use of keyboards (piano and organs) adds a depth as well. In addition to the fresh production, these songs feature some very solid songwriting and catchy hooks. Gary recognizes and exploits the talents that Moors and McCumber exhibit to produce recordings that would fit smartly into any pop radio set list.
A recurring theme in the lyrics is the desire to return to a simpler state of being where we don’t allow the pesky aggravations of life to obfuscate what is really important, especially on “Crack a Smile”, “Everything”, and “If Living Was Easy”. “You Take Me Somewhere” has a bluegrass sound and features the additional harmonies of Jim Gilmour, Ray Smith, and Carl Minor behind James Moors and Kort McCumber. “No Way to Live” voices the theme with some tasteful orchestration and subtle special effects.
“Take Me Away” is a personal account of Kort McCumber’s experiences as he lost his home during the Colorado floods of the fall of 2013. “Bend or be Broken” features an electric lead guitar part by Gary Louris which brings the works of the Jayhawks to mind. “Buried in the Earth” has a haunting feel to it as it deals with the inner conflict of a soldier dealing with guilt and duty.
“Best of Intentions” reminded me of a Lennon/McCartney vocal blending accompanied by piano. The title track, “Pandemonium” was left for the last position on the disc. It featured an organ fugue and an almost choir-like back up furthering the theme by depicting a man caught up in the rat race and squelching the urge to escape.
Choosing “Pandemonium” as a title strikes me as a bit ironic in that the layering of instrument tracks and the weaving of complex harmonies have been so carefully designed and executed. I think that M&M fans and Jayhawks fans would find this disc worth the investment in time and money. Any time that these guys book a gig near you, make an effort to get there. You won’t be disappointed.