The playing and singing on this duo’s second album make the listener feel like this is a collaboration that was almost meant to happen. On many of these tracks the relentless rhythm of De Groot’s banjo and Hargreaves’ fiddle is like a high-velocity metronome churning out eerie and old-timey tonalities.
Yet at the same time this ancient-sounding music is informed with an array of more contemporary cultural, literary and familial influences. These range from old hymns and field recordings to the magical realism of Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector and a shared awareness of the challenges facing our natural environment.
The ambiance of these nine tunes ranges from somber (“Each Season Changes You,” “I Would Not Live Always”) to the weirdly celebratory. I say “weirdly” because the arresting appeal of songs like “Dead And Gone” (which has the jaunty bounce of “Turkey In The Straw”) and “The Road That’s Walked By Fools” is the dissonance created as their upbeat fiddle and banjo interplay and sweet harmonies grind against the sometimes lugubrious themes and lyrics.
There’s an added layer of spontaneity that stems from the way Hurricane Clarice was recorded. Working with producer Phil Cook in a Portland, Oregon studio against the backdrop of a pandemic and a brutal heat wave, they took a fresh approach. Instead of recording one song, tinkering with it then moving on to the next, they spent four days playing and replaying a pair of hour-long performance set lists then picking out the strongest takes.
The result is something utterly intriguing. Something that pays homage to musical styles of the deep past while at the same time conveying a mysterious and almost hypnotic immediacy.