Earlier this year, Richmond, Va.-based band, Carbon Leaf, released its first full-blown Celtic-Rock album, entitled Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle, that enraptured me with its energy, humor and diversity of sound. I was rather surprised then, when I heard the band announce it was already working on a new album that would be out before the end of the year. That album, released Oct. 1, is called Constellation Prize, and it is filled to the brim with all the familiar features that make it undeniably Carbon Leaf.
With the release of Ghost Dragon… and Constellation Prize so close together, one might feel the urge to compare the two – so let’s! Unlike the former, with its fast-paced songs, most of the tunes on the new release are slower. But this goes hand-in-hand with a second marked difference, in that the new album is far more pensive than the last. While the former was full of sea shanties and sing-alongs, the latter turns the spotlight inward and contemplates. From the repeating chorus, “Is this where I belong?” in the opening track, “Circus,” to the yearning love-parched request of the song “Pierce My Heart,” we’re pulled out of the crowd and into a tighter circle with whom the band has decided to disclose their soul. This is no longer an open party, but a close collection of friends who have decided to get together and share in their daily successes, desires and shortcomings.
Be sure to catch Carbon Leaf on their Jump In Or Fall tour throughout the rest of 2013.
What works better; which do I prefer? As they say, there is a time and a place for everything. I have spent the better part of the last month devouring this new release. At first, I was a bit disappointed, having just listened to the rowdy, upbeat songs of the last album. But, as these things do, the tracks on the new release burrowed down to the marrow and infected my soul. Whether it’s the gloriously catchy, whistling chorus of “Love Rain Down”; the steady mesmerizing rhythm guitar to “Two Aging Truckers,” which instantly became a favorite of mine off the album; or the banjo-plucked dirge, “Tombstone vs. Ashes,” with its posthumous indifference; I just can’t get enough.
Have you ever just driven off by yourself, lost in thought, or stayed up until the early hours of the morning talking about all facets of life with a dear friend? That’s the kind of emotional and reflective feeling Constellation Prize gives me. It washes over me with the warm feeling of returning home, of friends and family, of sadness and of joy. The band members have come together to create a beautiful tapestry to wander about and laid well-crafted thoughts to enchant our minds. Count me enchanted.