Allred & Broderick’s Find the Ways is a balm for those run ragged by our 24/7, hyperkinetic modern world. A collaboration between Oregon-based composer, pianist, singer and violinist Peter Broderick and his newfound partner David Allred, it is a collection of gentle and mellow tunes characterized by an almost pre-20th-century approach to song writing and instrumentation.
Featuring nothing more than violin, upright bass and the voices of Allred & Broderick, it has little in common with most “modern” music, instead resembling the replications of American civil war-era music popularized by Ken Burn’s Civil War series and Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman’s Ravenous soundtrack; Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys’ recreation of pirate songs and sea chanteys, inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean film; and Tom Waits’ and Ry Cooder’s occasional forays into dustbowl Americana. This may be because it was recorded in Broderick’s studio tucked away on the Oregon coast, or because of the duo’s idiosyncratic approach to music. But it really matters little which, because no matter its influences, Find the Ways is as beautiful as it is soothing, reminding us to pay heed to the simplicity and purity of a slowed-down life and to stay strong against the noise, stimulation and anxiety of our restless world.
Opening track ‘Living on a Wire’ sets a template that the rest of Find the Ways loosely follows: a bowed upright-bass providing droning chordal movement, the close harmonies of Allred & Broderick’s evoking a sense of melancholic resignation, a slightly-scratchy violin chiming in with downbeat flourishes and trills. ‘The Wise One’ features a sense of percussive propulsion, the heavily plucked upright bass and repetitive violin work blurring the line between rhythm and melody, the sudden changes in volume and use of space lending it an irresistible dynamic. Instrumental track ‘Two Otters’ begins in almost classical way thanks to the interplay between upright bass and violin, before their combined sound becomes dark and ominous, an aural interpretation of the transition from peace to war. Acapella track ‘The Way’ will make you rethink your attitude to this much maligned style, Allred & Broderick’s effortless harmonies and up-and-down melodies creating an atmosphere of resignation and hope.
Find the Ways calms us, so laid-back as to demand a close listen that will smooth our jagged edges. It’s a beautiful thing.