Album: Notes To My Blood
Genre: Folk Rock
Sounds Like: The Mountain Goats, Flogging Molly
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skills: 7/10
Best Songs: Randolph Carter Rides Again, Middle Child
Strengths: Great lyrical content, truly original, honest music
Weaknesses: Artist persona definitely greater than level of technical musicianship/ability
Norwood is a folk-rock project founded by lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Norwood, who traded his musical theater background for a dedication to songwriting approximately six years ago and has since released two full length albums. Based around New York City, the band features Nastasia Green accompanying Norwood with vocals, Keith Michael Pinault on bass, violinist Hajnal Pivnick, and drummer Max Maples. Many of the members of Norwood have credentials in theater as well as musical education and promotion. This most recent album, titled “Notes To My Blood”, was released this year as a followup to Norwood’s debut album released last year titled “Year Of The Bear”.
“Notes To My Blood” might best be described as folk rock with an artful and contemplative edge. Throughout the ten acoustic-driven tracks of this album, warm violin melodies accompany a slew of blunt, genuine, and almost spitefully honest lyrical motifs that seem to demonstrate an aire of personal, pseudo-enlightenment in the face of orthodox American expectations. The content is very aggressive and unrelenting, but can also be very delicate and refined. The influence that bands like The Mountain Goats have had not only on Chris Norwood’s songwriting style but also his vocals and general performance traits is quite obvious; these songs are very sparse and simplistic in their composition, rely on rock-solid lyrical content, and are all about a sincere delivery from a very unique and thoughtful individual. Chris Norwood’s voice is almost the same as John Darnielle’s, however, Norwood seems to have a bit more of an edge, which is somewhat evident throughout some of the more aggressive songs like “Pretend” or “Middle Child”. This element puts the band’s sound out of the realm of being a straight Mountain Goats copy and gives the music a tinge of something like Flogging Molly; when Pivnick’s violin is soaring over some of the gruffer parts of Norwood’s writing, they become something more than a folk rock band, it’s one of the reasons why “Notes To My Blood” is probably a little bit better than most of the aspiring indie-folk bands currently putting out music. Basically, combination of a unique sound that isn’t quite folk but isn’t quite rock either, quality lyrics, and a set of musicians with a decent amount of performing skills all combine together to suggest that Norwood is one of the better indie bands to date.
While the musicianship in this band is okay, Norwood is far from winning any awards for their chops alone. Most of the arrangements on this album are pretty simple, similar to each other in many ways, and suggest that Chris Norwood’s greatest qualities as a musician come from his songwriting artistry as opposed to his technical ability. This is definitely a “word band” as opposed to a “musician’s band”.
If quality lyrics are the most important element to a good band, than Norwood has certainly succeeded in “Notes To My Blood”. These songs have been crafted by a truly talented songwriter; they are witty, honest, spiteful, and carry a very unique and sophisticated message, despite their initial appearance of crudeness. Norwood’s music suggests a large amount of potential if they continue to produce songs of this quality.