If this Dead Reckoning were a game of darts, The Builder’s and the Butcher’s could easily walk away with a bulls-eye riddled victory. The same musical skills that won them the Wilamette Week’s “Best New Band of 2008” is still alive and kicking in this, their third album. Dead Reckoning is one of those coveted works that cements a band’s reputation in their genre and proves that talent and success are a wonderful marriage when coupled correctly.
Recognized in the circles of folk music, the group plays to the strongest parts of the style. The songs bubble with subtle power, nothing is overwhelming and without context. Their tone is matter-of-fact, but with flourishes of an individual sound and pleasing lyrics. There are no missteps here, each note a well-thought paint stroke on a canvas of folk tradition tracing back to the wistful roots of the 1960s.
The power of the music is like the raging ocean outside a well-insulated window: we know it’s there, but it is more of a feeling than an outright recognition. Each song builds upon its own layers and uses unique lyrics to paint mental pictures and build tastefully balanced stories. For instance: one song details the breaking of a vein by a penetrating needle, another speaks of monsters emerging from the sea and others cover the loss of identity and God vs. the Devil. The range of material flows between personal and social commentary and is only as satisfying as the music used to create it; this group gets it right every time.
Dead Reckoning manages to open this lesser-known, rarely used niche of the industry to create a warm and comfortable sound reminiscent of Richie Havens’ and Joan Biaz’s memorable 1969 Woodstock performances. And yet, it puts the listener in the feel of a small, dimly lit coffee house venue on a warm Saturday night. It creates the mental environment of free-flowing thought and a general appreciation of the medium. Their music just is, created without needs or expectations as a true expression of art by genuine artists. This album shines not only with the love of music, but also with a deep appreciation for its gifts and abilities.