Dead Will Walk Dear
The National Lights explore the graceful, folky traditionalism of acts like Iron & Wine and Sufjan Stevens, but behind their quiet sound lies more sinister subject matter: obsessive love, jealousy and a killing. Songwriter Jacob Thomas Berns writes songs about small American towns, rivers and fields and falling in love, but his towns hide secrets, the landscape hides graves. With The Dead Will Walk, Dear, Berns will be the first to admit that he draws equal inspiration from '80s slasher films as well as Southern Gothic literature, and these songs have a disconcerting sense of horror that builds with repeated listening. The album's homespun sound and the sparseness of the arrangements lend a sense of authenticity to Berns' narratives. Like all love stories, there are moments of exultation and discovery, sensuality and wonder and the songs are haunting and wistful, the vocals upfront and as intimate as a confession. Which, in effect, this album is. Simply arranged and using traditional folk instrumentation (no drums, which you might not even notice on first listen), Berns' songs lull you by the rolling cadences of the acoustic guitars, piano lines, lap steel and lovely understated background harmonies of Chris Kiehne and Sonya Cotton. Recorded intermittently between July 2005 and early summer of 2006 at improvised locations -- "a house in Poughkeepsie, NY, the Divinity Lutheran Church in Towson, MD, and the house at 4414 St. David's Street house in Philadelphia, PA" - The Dead Will Walk Dear is a striking debut by a songwriter whose gorgeous melodies and harmonies belie the violence and darkness of the lyrics themselves.