Gregory Alan Isakov is the kind of artist of whom -if one were not a devoted follower – there would only be a vague awareness without quite knowing why. The distinctive name helps, but it’s his melancholic songs’ conspicuousness over the last decade that have seen various tracks perfectly utilised at poignant endings of US TV episodes, or seemingly slipped into every sad/quiet digital playlist. In fact, the tens of millions of plays various tracks of his now have on Spotify show there are more ways to reverence than the album/tour/album cycle.
Not that Isakov is averse to this, it’s just that he has his farm to run, and not in a musician-buying-the-ranch way, but as in full time farming his acres outside Boulder, Colorado, where a converted barn has become his studio. It was also his distribution centre for his records as until now he released and managed everything on his own independent label. ‘Evening Machines’ though will be licenced out, which perhaps is a sign that Isakov knows he’s done his leg work in the industry, and knows its his time?
The album’s dozen songs are filled with Isakov’s familiar tropes of expanse – both of nature and sky -mixed with an aching sense of loss. Whilst always intimate, these songs are not sparse; all the barn work was mixed up and enhanced with Tucker Martine in Oregon, with a lot of orchestration. Isakov is no stranger to this, as in the five years since his last studio album, he recorded and toured his back catalogue with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which worked beautifully. ‘Caves’ start with a surprisingly strong beat, but quickly settles to an accepting of silence with its repeated refrain of “let’s put all these words away”. ‘Dark, Dark, Dark’ with its gorgeous banjo work, shares its descending triad with ‘Wings In All Black’, where we hear “down, down, down”. ‘Was I Just Another One’ reflects the gentle but gorgeous longing of ‘Too Far Away’.
These tracks all share a dusky hue, which as the album title suggests, holds the feel of this specific time of day. “It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, morning or afternoon, this music always feels like evening to me” Isakov said. ‘Evening Machines’ also references the flicker of the VUs in his barn as he retreats there after a days in his fields. The album cover pictures Isakov in his fields looking away to the oncoming storm in autumnal tint, and this is when he can turn to his music career. When the harvest is in, he will be touring this tender, luring material.
The homeward way in the cool of day