Bill Hibbets,
Bricks & Trees
(Inner Knot, 2007)

Bricks & Trees is entirely by Bill Hibbets, from the songwriting to the production, engineering, arrangement and musical performances. It's difficult to believe that such a mellow-sounding album was actually compiled by one person. Hibbets creates such a laid-back atmosphere throughout the album that such a sole energetic effort seems nearly impossible. But, regardless of the album's history, the truly noteworthy aspect of this album is its delightfully relaxed and amenable sound.

The lyrics have an approachable complexity, an admittedly difficult task that Hibbets accomplishes with deceptive ease. Not to downplay the artist's lyrical talents, but Hibbets isn't trying to impress; he simply tells stories and establishes scenarios. Instead of injecting confusing phrases and four-dollar words, Hibbets builds up the song through carefully selected phrasing that doesn't require effort to be understood. One song's lyrics in particular will actually push the listener away from any effort. "Carnival" has such an agreeable and laze-inducing ambience that it should become the slacker's anthem. Hibbets must have hand-picked the lyrical scenes to entice the listener to a different state of mind.

Hibbets takes a similar, laid-back style to his vocal and instrumental performances. The instruments are used primarily in a supportive manner, leaving the emphasis on the songs. Vocally, Hibbets provides a sturdy, deep sound that suits his storytelling. "Wrong" and "Whisper Screaming" employ a different method from most other tracks, combining Hibbets deep voice in a conversational manner with a slow, intentional pace established by the acoustical accompaniment. He is singing, mostly, but in a talking/reciting manner. (And no, it's not in a William Shatner sort of mode -- it actually sounds quite nice.)

Bricks & Trees is an enjoyable album with a mellow touch. While some albums take an attention-grabbing approach to the point of distraction, Hibbets provides a serene yet energetic sound. It's just right for one of those days where you have plenty of other things requiring your focus and would like some solid background music.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

12 April 2008

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