Mountain Animation
Lava Letter



by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
March 18th, 2013 | 6 replies

Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The music of the frontier made relevant to the urban jungle.

Truth be told, I've been trying to find a way to review Lava Letter for almost a month, now. Part of the issue in reviewing this, for me, is that it's something which feels natural to my ears, but totally alien to my taste. I'm not big on country or folk, but hot damn have this duo made me wake up and realize how much I love banjos in my music.

It's not just that, though. Yes, Lava Letter is a very well-composed and played album that makes a very strong case for the guitar of the back porch bayou (and the farmhand's fiddle, for that matter), but the music put together by Zack Orion and Scott Murphy is more than mere composition and execution. It's visceral. Not nostalgic, visceral. With the mountain man twiddling and Kentucky barefoot dancing an album like Lava Letter can invoke, it can be easy to confuse the two, but this is an album which makes it apparent that it's no tribute to spoons slapped on knees while pappy grates the washboard.

No, Lava Letter is an album which plucks true folk heartstrings in the 21st century. Part of that stems from simplicity: plucking those tinny banjo strings with fingers that must resemble rock more than flesh and starting a campfire worthy of any scout leader on the violin, the album is almost wholly reliant on two instruments and impassioned vocals which range from grizzled croons to yodels. Those wailings, which forgo any pretense and succeed solely on true passion, bring the old and the new together through the lyrics they deliver, too, with lines like "I'm just a program" fitting in just as well as "Bury Me"'s repeated, self-titled sentiment. But maybe it's the tempo that makes Lava Letter seem such a perfect mesh of the old and new - adapting the inherent and essential human need for music on the frontier to the pace of the city. Whatever the case, the emotion is as clear as the music it's wrapped in. It's a sound that's frantic, yet familiar; new and exciting, yet as old as time.

That said, the album can begin to feel a bit samey after repeated listening, though the connection between album and listener never seems to wane. The inherent, primal humanity of the music presented here just seems too powerful to be denied. Couple the primary elements of the album's folk presentation with the strong yet incredibly subtle backing of drums and bass (truly appreciable on "SunFlower"), and we see Mountain Animation solidifying Lava Letter as the transition from musical necessity played on rickety old wooden porches and meadows to visceral Folk played on concrete porches and balconies. It's music we all feel a connection to at some basic level brought out and made relevant to today. It's as simple as that.

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user ratings (1)

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 18th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

With my first review as a contributor, I hereby begin a career of reviewing NOTHING BUT BANJO MUSIC.

Check it out!

This review will also be posted on

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Staff Reviewer
March 18th 2013


nice review and gratz on contrib man you deserve it

Digging: Langhorne Slim - Lost At Last, Vol 1

Staff Reviewer
March 18th 2013


Excellent review and congrats on the contrib promotion, will listen to this tomorrow.

Digging: Fleurety - The White Death

March 18th 2013


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks guys. Banjo all day and all night m/

Contributing Reviewer
March 18th 2013


congratz muhfuker!!!

March 18th 2013


Not sure how pleasing this sounds to me, but maybe I'll listen to a track or two. No promises, though.

Very good work here, though-- it's nice to see a title under your username!

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