Tillman’s Vacilando Territory Blues
is sort of Fleet Foxes meets Mark Kozelek, which makes sense considering he drums in the former and sings like the latter. With those assets he makes a fine folk musician: when you write and perform with baroque pop dudes all day and listen to a folk legend all night, the odds are stacked heavily in your favour- and even though Tillman hadn’t joined his band mates at this time, it’s obvious he was their kind; tracks have a soulful ease about them, such as the sprinkled piano notes of “Firstborn” to make richer the acoustic lullaby, or the organic vocal arrangements of “Vessels.” Most of the time, Tillman’s vocals are more about adding atmosphere than divulging poetry, with shared vocal work professing his love of harmonising. It’s heartening to hear someone so engrossed by the music he is making, and while Tillman has been plodding away for five strong years with an acoustic guitar and a couple of additives, it’s clear that he’d have had it no other way; each song is nostalgic of the folk world he loves, with truthful titles such as “James Blues” calling back to Dylan and Guthrie, but less as a gimmick than you’d expect- Tillman strums his guitar, disregards the production and dispenses simpleton advice, such as “If you have to sell / break it ‘til it’s free.” And haven’t I mentioned Kozelek? His voice is a good point of reference, of course: Tillman’s is one both of gruffness and warmth, deep on the scale but enchanting in reality. It fits the hush of the album, which only misses its mark when it breaks through the quiet to what sound like failed Fleet Foxes jams (“Steel on Steel”).
There’s little else to say about a record essentially by ‘another singer-songwriter’. The guy has his comparisons and is hit even harder by being that drummer from that band (as Sputnik’s Cam Wilson can tell you of Bon Iver’s S. Carey), but he might even count himself lucky here; he’s got the best of both worlds, a drenched seasonal side and a simple traditional one. And it’s not like these records have anything riding on them; he’s a Fleet Fox now!