On their strong new album Song of the Rose, Arbouretum explore rebirth in turbulent times | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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On their strong new album Song of the Rose, Arbouretum explore rebirth in turbulent times


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Dave Heumann, front man for Baltimore’s long-running Arbouretum, isn’t shy about reaching toward the profound while addressing transformation on the recent Song of the Rose (Thrill Jockey). The elegantly lumbering opening track, “Call Upon the Fire,” announces a need to break free of atrophy and wipe the slate clean, burning something down in order to start over: “Unfolding in the black of night / What’s ruined is restored,” Heumann sings, melding melodic shapes redolent of British folk tradition with a biting hard-rock attack a la Steeleye Span. The idea of renewal comes into relief on “Absolution Song,” revealing a consistent theme that’s continued on “Dirt Trails” (“Let the water run / Until it comes out clear”). Rather than conjuring biblical imagery, Heumann taps into the medieval, using a flinty, hard-nosed attack to add muscle, grit, and desperation. His resourceful band occasionally veer into more ethereal terrain, but the leader’s voice always grounds their performances. Arbouretum’s sound and approach may seem out of step with current tastes, but they’ve remained one of the best, most overlooked rock bands in this country for nearly a decade.   v

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