Jefferson At Rest [Secretly Canadian]


What's troubling about Early Day Miners is their close sonic resemblance to Red House Painters. But once you get over that, the differences become clearer. For one, Early Day Miners stake their aural soundscape on America's south-west. In fact, that's such a big deal, that on Jefferson At Rest, their third album, the lyrics obsess about America's Civil War and the cultural legacy it has wrought. A lot of that is thanks to bandleader Daniel Burton's Civil War historian mother, and his early childhood growing up in Kentucky.

With their name taken from a pamphlet featuring a picture of old miners, the Early Day Miners spun out from Ativin in 1998, the other band that guitarist, Daniel Burton, and drummer, Rory Leitch, came out from. Their sound is Burton's whispery vocals, a slow-core rock rhythm and a rhythm guitar riff that never fails to take over the whole song. Most of the tracks end off with down-tempo Neil Young guitar jams (Ed: take note that this is the third "Sons of Neil Young" bands that we have reviewed after Damien Jurado and Jason Molina).

The songs are gorgeously evocative. As Burton has once said: "I've always been drawn to the open, non-interpretive nature of instrumental music, so it's been a goal of mine with Early Day Miners to try and do as little narrative steering with the lyrics as possible. I like the idea of the occasional audible lyric being much like a vision passing in the night. It might construct an idea and send you thinking in a particular direction, but still manages to remain elusive."

So don't worry if you can't figure out what New Holland is about. The spine-tingling two-part harmony is enough. Or on the final track, Cotillion, when Burton sings: "What can we do to bring us together/to make us one." That could be about the Civil War as much as about a couple but who cares. That elusiveness makes this perfect late-night listening, before you realise that night has become day. - Philip Cheah

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