Take Americana. Flip it on its head. Set it down on a clean sheet of drones. Fold it in on itself. Take vocals with a spiritual-music quality and dissect them. Rearrange them in slightly skewed layers. Manipulate them. Leave all the emotional value intact. There: now you have Fuck Everybody, You Can Do Anything by the Andrew Weathers Ensemble. These seven tracks unfold in gloriously melancholic slow motion, pulling incredible amounts of warmth and honesty from their wide assortment of acoustic instruments. Weathers recorded these songs as improvised sessions with various musicians—the Bandcamp page lists 15 guest stars—whose contributions range from violins to clarinets to guitars to melordion to cello to, yes, pine cone. Back in the studio, he went at the raw material and reformed it, added electronic treatments and turned it all into an album I quite frankly can’t get enough of. To my ears, there’s more than a hint of Appalachian music going on here, a kind of laconic bluegrass feel underscoring everything. Weathers’ voice consistently has a reserved, heartbreaking tone to it. On “Keep Fighting 2K15,” it comes in over a clean mix of drones and dobro-like guitar, all but mumbling “Praying for your happiness/Hope that you recover” over and over, and something in the tone, in the way the words come out, suggest a scene where the singer isn’t sure what to say to someone, and this is the best they can muster. I will try not to overuse the word “honesty” in this review, but it keeps coming up in my head. It often reveals itself as a bare truth, unadorned of pretense. While the vocals are not always super-clear, their feel comes through—piercingly so. On “Live By Golden Rule: Go Orange Be Strong,” I pull out “I’d sleep on the floor/right next to your door/And I think I’m all right/I know I can drive tonight.” It’s from “Backwards from Ten” by The Progress, but slowed, slurred slightly, and loaded with that head-down resignation. You can hear the shrug. A repeating phrase on guitar pulses through, leaving a wake of simplicity. A touch of (perhaps) auto-tune on backup vocals is a great touch. It’s done throughout the album in places, always to up the texture. Lyrically, by the way, Weathers pulls from a broad range of sources, from R&B guy Drake to folk legend Buell Kazee to punk rockers Oskar. So there’s some eclecticism to the mix, and Weathers distills the words down to fit his front-porch-jam style. I don’t normally review work with a lot of lyrics, but as they’re presented here, it’s less about lyrics and more about their use as one more layered in instrument. There are places, as on “We Will Never See A Cloud Again,” where a chorus of voices joins in, but everyone’s kind of singing in their own tempo, just a hair behind or ahead. Again, it creates texture and takes us into a place where folks have gathered to praise in song and maybe some of them don’t know all the words. We’ve all been there. And what comes of that? Yes, honesty. Hominess. Truth. And the need to listen.
From the first of the many times I’ve listened to Fuck Everybody…, it has had its hooks in me. “Live By Golden Rule…” has nearly brought me to tears more than once, and since it leads off the album, it makes me want to stay in the flow and the feel, and that is duly rewarded with an ever-deepening experience. It’s the mix of the straightforward sound of the instruments, Weathers’ own vulnerable vocal style, and the unobtrusive electronic treatments, all meshing impeccably with the quality that is at the album’s core: honesty. This is an album you definitely need to experience. One of my favorites this year.
Available from Bandcamp.