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Local label Polar Recordings releases Folklore Vol. 1

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All alive: Kevin Finn
  • All alive: Kevin Finn

Polar Recordings is the label name under which the Pittsburgh scene's Finn brothers have long released their musical projects: drummer Sean Finn's work with Life in Bed, and singer-songwriter Kevin Finn's work as, well, himself. Most recently, the label released Life in Bed's Passed and Presents and Kevin Finn's Vessels; now it's expanding to include other artists with a compilation of new folk sounds: Folklore Vol. 1.

The short disc -- some 20 minutes long -- opens and closes with pristine instrumentals from acoustic guitarist Michael J. Kaisner; Tan or Boil contributes "St. Mary of the Snow," which blends his signature raspy affectation with fingerpicked guitar and piano arpeggios. German duo A Humming from the Wood contributes two lo-fi Joanna Newsom-ish songs, one of which seems to be about a squirrel, the other about birds (at least that's what I surmise from the recording of birds that runs through it, and the title, "Song of a Bird").

Without doubt, the standout tracks are Kevin Finn's two contributions, both of which suggest an epic sweep and broader emotional significance. On "You Are a Ghost," a contrapuntal acoustic guitar part and harmonica provide the underpinning for the deeply melancholic melody, while his lyrics seem to use the fallout of a relationship to tap into a more universal alienation, and through that, a connection with others, however pained.

While the ache in "You Are a Ghost" is almost palpable, "Creatures" seems the more perfect, economical composition. Opening with the clunking of a repeated banjo part, subtle keys fill in behind Finn's soft, reverb-drenched voice, as always somewhat reminiscent of Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek. Barely a verse, and he's out, having said all he needs to say: "To the mountain high / I see beautiful creatures / All alive / Magical colors / Time was on my side."

The release show for Folklore Vol. 1, in addition to the folkies -- Finn, Kaisner and Pairdown -- features the sinister and singularly rhythmic instrumental trio Big Lazy. The New York City band's super-spooky new album, Postcards From X, contains echoes of Waits and The Bad Seeds, as whiz guitarist Stephen Ulrich conjures both Link Wray and Marc Ribot. Funky, sleazy, twisted and extremely cool -- you might just want to pop this album in and watch Blue Velvet with the sound off.

Folklore Vol. 1 CD Release featuring Kevin Finn, Michael J. Kaisner, Pairdown, and Big Lazy. 8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 26. Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield. $5. All ages. 412-361-2262 or www.garfieldartworks.com

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