An interesting album let down by a muddy mix.
There’s an old joke about a couple of pensioners who go to a restaurant that’s been recommended to them. At the end of the meal, one turns to the other and complains “The food was a bit ordinary” and the other responds “And the portions were so small they got lost on the plate!”
Well Noah G Fowler’s album ‘Gone Again’ is the audio equivalent of that old joke – his voice is a bit ordinary – it can be a little harsh and raw – and in some songs, that voice gets lost in the mix. In fact, the mix is the real problem with the album is that on some tracks the drums are too loud, then on others it’s the bass that’s too prominent – it’s all a bit odd and all over the place.
Fowler is just 21 and at times sounds like an old-timer who’s lived in a shack in Kentucky for most of his life. In fact, he hails from Pennsylvania although is now based in Nashville TN so you would have thought he would have recorded the album there. In fact, it was recorded at two homes in Massachusetts: in drummer Mike Chapin’s house in Boston and in Joelle and Barry’s Airbnb in Rockport (hopefully with their permission!).
There are just eight songs on what could be called be called a “mini-album” varying from bluegrass to alt-country to classic country and beyond. Fowler is an interesting writer and the songs have an old-timey feel – they certainly don’t sound as if the singer/songwriter is only 21. There are songs about love, stockbrokers in the 1920s, travelling and even early railway workers amongst other subjects – Fowler is old beyond his years.
Backed by twelve musicians playing the usual Americana instruments: pedal steel, dobro, banjo and fiddle etc. with Nora Meier on the occasional harmony backing vocal, the soundscape is impressive but unfortunately at times it swamps Fowler’s vocals, and his lyrics are hard to decipher.
Fowler is undoubtably a talent to watch out for in the future. The big problem with ‘Gone Again’ is that he not only wrote all the songs, plays guitar and is lead vocalist but he also produced and mixed the album, and it seems got a little too close to it. As it was recorded during the pandemic, perhaps it wasn’t feasible to get a producer involved – maybe something Fowler should consider for the next album?