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Published: 2010/09/13
by Aaron Kayce

Carl Broemel
All Birds Say

ATO Records

As the lead guitarist for My Morning Jacket, Carl Broemel’s six-string prowess is well documented ( Rolling Stone even branded him one of their “New Guitar God”), but with his debut solo album, All Birds Say, Broemel shows a side of himself that few – perhaps even the man himself – knew existed.

The notion of “guitarist goes solo” doesn’t exactly fill one’s head with visions of grandeur, but with vocals that hint at Paul McCartney and subject matter that suggests George Harrison’s Hindu enlightenment, Broemel achieves a level of beauty and subtle sophistication that generally escapes the often shaky “solo debut.” That he does it with acoustic guitars, chamber-folk compositions and world-wise lyrics, not the distorted maelstrom and nimble fretwork we’re accustomed to is all the more impressive.

The songs were largely conceived as stripped down guitar/vocal pieces, but with Broemel also utilizing pedal steel, sax, violin and autoharp and his father Robert (who played in the Indianapolis Symphony for 30 years) adding bassoon, clarinet and sax, and a number of other guests including MMJ bandmate Bo Koster on keys, the material reaches surprising depth; the sturdy skeleton now covered in skin and coursing with blood.

With his solo debut Broemel found a thread, a piece of string he can’t really chase with his day job and followed it back to the source where a budding songwriter was uncovered. This isn’t his coming out party or cry for more of the MMJ limelight; it’s more of a happy accident that will likely color his future contributions to the group but surely never find him sharing the lead. And Broemel wouldn’t have it any other way, one of the album’s finest qualities is that there’s no attempt to compete with or draw inspiration (or material) away from My Morning Jacket; this is a true side-project that knows its place. It just so happens that All Birds Say is good enough to survive – and thrive, on its own.

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