Music Review: Peter and the Wolf’s “The Ivori Palms”
November 28, 2007
Originally published in the 21 November 2007 edition of the Hilltop Views.
Austinite-turned-nomad Red Hunter, the man behind the folk project Peter and the Wolf, is one of our city’s more subversive musicians. Besides his extensive repertoire of intimate lo-fi recordings in an age of digitally manipulated music, Hunter is notorious for performing in the oddest of makeshift venues — graveyards, trains, and once an island only accessible by canoe.
The latest Peter and the Wolf release, “The Ivori Palms,” is a folk gem straight out of a dream. While living and recording in a condemned warehouse in Canada during the summer of this year, Hunter fell asleep amid plaguing doubts about his musical ambitions and living arrangements. He shared these anxieties with his hero, the late journalist Dan Eldon, in a dream.
“You’re not living in a condemned warehouse,” Eldon assured him. “This is the Ivori Palms.” Just then, a neon motel sign bearing the same name lit up outside the window of the warehouse. When Hunter awoke, he had the name for his new album.
The music is as impressive as its story. Hunter’s rumbly baritone vocals swim atop sparse finger-picked acoustic arrangements, conveying a traveler’s tale of nature’s beauty. “You don’t have to say a word/Every traveler knows/Like the wise migrating bird/We go where summer goes,” he sings on the album opener “Where Summer Goes.”
But the most stunning aspect of “The Ivori Palms” is the soulful backing vocals. Both the haunting “Ghost Sandals” and the nostalgic “Southern Moon” feature choirs of layered harmonies so rich that they could almost pass for a capella arrangements, save a few softly strummed guitar chords. The former finds Hunter whistling eerily between a ghost story in verse, and in the latter he dreams of summer nights filled with close friends. “Warm wind blowing cutoffs and sandals/Long nights drinking with the boys/Not much to do for the rest of the evening/These are the things we enjoy,” he sings.
Virtually the only misstep of the 14-track album is the piercing “Bike of Jonas.” In it, Hunter pounds on steel drums while rhythmically singing in a muffled tone, giving the song a jarring tribal sound that will leave your ears ringing.
But with the rest of the album filled with moving minimalist tunes, “The Ivori Palms” is a promising addition to Peter and the Wolf’s growing catalog of innovative folk.