Randy Kaplan - Ancient Ruins
Any record that opens up with its best song is risking being a victim of comparison to it. Yet, though "Ancient Ruins" kicks off with a powerful heartfelt, banjo-drive cover of Nirvana's "On a Plain," Randy Kaplan manages to keep you engaged and surprised throughout. His mix of folk/country melodies and pop harmonies are intimate and there is a ragged feel to this despite the smooth production.
There are a couple other covers that will probably get a bit of attention, but originals like "A Part of You," "Action Figure" and "The Great Divide" ring truer and more memorably. Sure, a bluegrass take on Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" and an earnest take on Prince's "I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man" have their moments of both genuine and snickering effects, but a few of Kaplan's own tacks are big slabs of soul that need to be the focus of any peek at this record.
Kaplan has a nice ear for clear pop vocals and arrangements that compliment the more earthy stylings; the mix works, and Kaplan's lyrics ring true in that mix. His themes and tunes on "Ancient Ruins" build off the traditional, but he makes it obvious that the past is only a starting point for his own work.
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