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Chris Dorman | Sita

Album review by John Powell

Chris Dorman  | Sita

Sita is one of those albums that might take you six months to get to the second half of, because you’re constantly listening to the first six songs. This album flies under the radar, totally inconspicuous, but Chris Dorman has created a work of fabled art. Falling under the tag of “Neo-Folk”, Chris is more than a singer/songwriter. Many songs on Sita are narratives or poems. The album reminds me of Badly Drawn Boy’s Hour of Bewilderbeast or The Villagers Becoming a Jackal in the way that the songs crescendo, like a soundscape (a landscape of music).

But while many albums like this are built in the studio, from musicians playing a bit here, a bit there, passing the tracks around until they can be mixed together, Sita was recorded in four different rooms simultaneously in a house in Michigan, over the course of four days. This all-in-one approach is apparent.

The first track, “A Mind Full”, has Chris singing, “For the fever of forever/fills the nothing, nowhere, never.” His voice is quiet, with a little whine (not annoying; endearing). With slide guitar and wonderful harmonies. Then horns come in and the mood changes entirely, with one of my favorite song lyrics ever: “And as the first few spirits crossed/perhaps confused and feeling lost/they noticed a series of signs/placed in front of them, as if to remind.” From there, the song catapults into a glorious play out, driven by Chris sending off some harmonics on his guitar, where he ends, “No answers need be found.”

“No answers need be found” could be the theme of Sita, which feels like a series of vignettes about people searching for answers they’ll likely never find. For instance, “Miss Muse” is a story, written in classic folk musician style. “Miss Muse asks of all of her guests/‘Let go of no and hold on to yes.’” In the story, a man stays at the inn and Miss Muse takes care of him. He writes a line on a scrap of paper: “If love is a song, then you are this note.” Prepare for shivers down your spine.

A key track is “All You Are”, which changes up the sound. Palm-muted guitars and shaker lead us into shadow-fused vocals. Chris questions what drives us in life. “Will we lose this fight?/Very likely/but no one’s going home,” he sings as a minstrel mandolin swings in. Soon enough rock drums enter and everything becomes a gritty instrumental bridge.

Chris has a talent for singing words as they should be sung, as in, he makes cold lyrics sound cold and confusing lyrics sound confused. “All Your Are” drifts into “Without”, where cello surfaces underneath a baroque-era choral reprise.

Another key track is “Magnolia”. Whenever a musician marries or has a kid, their music always changes, becoming about family and youth, and often times the change is a bad decision. Chris, however, allows these themes to generate senserity. His art doesn’t falter behind stories of family. Instead, it drives it to new levels. “Magnolia made a mama outta you,” Chris sings. “Magnolia made a family out of us.” The melody wins. It’s excellent.

Sita is that album you listen to in its entirety because between the beginning and end you are swept into a Wonderland, like your world, only different, and Chris, humble and sweet, will get us through it to the other side.

Bottom Line: Folk, laced with orchestration and songs like old-time tavern tales.

 


 

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