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Norfolk & Western Dinero Severo Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

A fine album by an act who really should think about turning professional.

Andrew Mueller 2010

Norfolk & Western are the performing outlet of Adam Selzer – the Portland producer whose studio, Type Foundry, has spawned records by (among many others) Langhorne Slim, The Minus 5, The Decemberists and the M Ward/Zooey Deschanel project She & Him (Selzer also plays in M Ward’s touring band). Members of these and other groups have drifted in and out of Norfolk & Western over a decade and five previous albums. For Dinero Severo, the core group consists of Selzer, long-time collaborator Rachel Blumberg (also drummer with Bright Eyes and The Decemberists) and Loch Lomond bass player Dave Depper, joined at various points by Raul Pastor Medall, Weinland’s Adam Shearer and Alia Farah.

Dinero Severo was recorded more or less live in the studio, and sounds it. Though the tracks don’t have much in common, they do all have the urgency and verve of genuine performance, and just occasionally get a bit carried away with themselves (the coda of the fevered, Sparklehorse-ish Turkish Wine is one of those digressions which are probably rather more fun to play on than listen to). Some are genuinely bold things to attempt in this context. Whippoorwill Song is a largely spoken-word recitation of one of Selzer’s snapshot character portraits, backdropped by squalls of distorted guitar: it pitches somewhere between Grant Lee Buffalo’s Jupiter & Teardrop and Tindersticks’ My Sister, and is therefore entirely wonderful.

Despite what might be suggested by Norfolk & Western’s name, they’re not really a country – or even an alt-country – outfit. The gorgeous Every Morning does feature flourishes of a Blue Bayou bassline, weeping slide guitar and gentle gusts of countrypolitan strings, but in general the influence of Nashville is only discernible in the pervasive influence of Lambchop, that least Nashville of Nashville bands: The Long Goodbye and Hiding Home are especially evocative of Kurt Wagner’s mournful minstrels, the similarity reinforced by Selzer’s wan, distracted vocals.

There is a tendency for side-project/supergroup enterprises of this sort to lapse into trivial self-deprecation and/or deranged hubris. Dinero Sivero does neither: it’s a fine album by an act who really should think about turning professional.

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