There’s something about a good record that jumps out at the listener within the first few moments. It might be something technically proficient, but more likely, it’s something emotionally resonant that is being translated through the filters of talent and technology to hit the ear in just the right way.
That’s the experience of listening to British singer/songwriter Roo Panes on his Quiet Man album. The opening track, “A Message to Myself,” is simple and lush in ways that make it irresistible. And that feels like the intention of the entire collection. With his husky, but gentle voice right up front in the mix, Panes works through these tunes with great care, as a piano trickles in here, bells plink along there, and cellos drone underneath. This ain’t your mama’s folk music, friends. After all, Panes has been compared to artists like Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver, and those are fair enough signposts, but Quiet Man is far more accessible than most of the releases by either of those guys.
Two other differences are notable: Panes doesn’t take the “weird for weird’s sake” path and he doesn’t wallow in melancholia. Songs like “Ophelia” and “My Sweet Refuge” overflow with positivity, but not in an overly saccharin way. It’s easy to believe that Panes believes every word he’s singing. That holds true for the more muscular tracks, as well. “Cub,” “Warrior,” and “All These Walking Thoughts,” with their swelling choruses, showcase his malleability as a singer and a songwriter.
Quiet Man is one of those records that can be enjoyed on its vibe, alone, such is the warmth and comfort in which it swaddles those who listen. But a closer listen, in order to hear the thoughtful touches layered into the work, is well worth the effort.