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Published: 2012/11/28
by Sam Robertson

Lord Huron
Lonesome Dreams

In Larry McMurtry’s quintessential epic frontier novel Lonesome Dove, a pair of adventure-thirsty ex-Rangers lead a danger-ridden cattle drive from small-town Texas to Montana, heading north until they could declare themselves pioneers, with no neighbors for hundreds of miles. After the diminished and disheartened crew finally succeeds, the leader feels nothing but a duty to return all the way home, a journey that he embarks on alone. Now, Lonesome Dove finally has a soundtrack, the similarly titled Lonesome Dreams, a debut LP from Michigan’s Lord Huron. With their wild folk tales, Lord Huron capture the same pioneer spirit, and, ultimately, longing for home that fuel McMurtry’s epic novel.

From the adventure stories of Lord Huron’s songwriter Ben Schneider to the album’s cover art of a lone cowboy on a midnight ride through an empty desert, the band appears to tip a cap to McMurtry’s classic work and the lonely but grand, strange vastness of the rural Midwest. With his songwriting, Schneider taps directly into that never-ending well of weird, old Americana. But while the traveling-centric lyrics feel old-timey, the music – with murky keyboards and creative percussion embracing gently strummed acoustic guitars, feels brand new.

Lonesome Dreams opens with angelic harmonies before Schneider sings, “Oh there’s a river that winds on forever, I’m gonna see where it leads.” He continues, “To the end, to the end, won’t you follow me,” inviting the listener to come along for the ride. The leadoff track, “End of the Earth,” feels like a fitting welcome for Lonesome Dreams, with natural, adventure-inspired lyrics, and a lush, cinematic take on folk rock flavored by driving, world music influenced percussion.

Singing about rivers and mountains on “End of the Earth,” Schneider plays the part of a mystic traveler throughout the album. But by the third song, the title track, his concept of traveling seems to evolve. As he sings about a “moonlit lake,” “bright red sun” and “wooded island,” it becomes clear that he’s not singing about an exotic paradise but his rural Michigan home. The next song, “The Ghost On The Shore,” affirms that an appreciation for home still remains after majestic travels far and wide, as he sings, “I was born on the lake and I don’t want to leave it.”

The band backs Schneider’s enthralling adventure tales with dreamy folk rock that feels as mystical and naturally free-flowing as his lyrics. You could be forgiven if you mistook Schneider’s echo-laden yet still rootsy vocals for those of Jim James, but Lord Huron lean far closer to spacey folk than the powerhouse rock and roll of My Morning Jacket. While the songs leave enough breathing room for blissed out psychedelic noise, Schneider’s descriptive, rambling-filled tales remain at the heart of the band. Both musically and lyrically, Lord Huron may not always take the most direct route in their songs, but certainly the most scenic one.

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