The Acorn Glory Hope Mountain

[Paper Bag; 2008]

Styles: indie rustic, Appalachiacana
Others: Califone, The Arcade Fire, Talking Heads’ {Naked}

The Acorn’s sophomore LP (and first for Paper Bag) was born from a daunting and rather unorthodox brainchild, so much so that songwriter Rolf Klaussner’s own bandmates initially raised alarm when he brought forth the idea: to record a tribute album to Gloria Esperanza Montoya, Klaussner’s Honduras-born mother. Glory Hope Mountain takes concern with Montoya’s native upbringing in Honduras, during which she survived a flood and an abusive stepfather, told second-hand through her son and based on her own accounts and his interpretations. Given Klaussner's impressionistic tendencies, the results provide an often confusing experience that takes us through actual events, suppositions, and broad strokes, filtered through The Acorn’s kitchen sink folk-rock racket.

The racket gets close to holy on Glory Hope Mountain’s terrific opener “Hold Your Breath,” which sends up Montoya in fine fashion, as The Acorn follow the lead of Klaussner's gentle croak steadily taking things from a whisper to a ruckus over the course of six minutes. What a shame, then, that it’s all brought down by “Flood Pt. 1,” which opens with the sort of tribal chanting and reverie that The Acorn should be advised to avoid, until about 40 seconds into the track when everything comes apart in a raucous everybody solo. It’s the kind of gold vein that The Dirty Three have mined over and over again for entire tracks, but The Acorn use the trick for only about 15 seconds, and all too soon we are thrown back dancing around the bonfire again, stranded in aural torture, swaying somewhere between Modest Mouse and Rusted Root.

Things continue on more humbly from here, with tracks alternating between pensive acoustic numbers and more lively indie-folk with tasteful instrumentation. “Crooked Legs” and “Oh, Napoleon” offer a window into Montoya’s distress and her escape from pain and squalor, the latter putting the focus on Rolf Klaussner’s empathy, while musing “Bite my tongue/ I taste your blood/ Never thought that I could bite hard enough.” (He then goes on to rhyme “Getting old” with “Bought and sold,” but he means well.) “Glory” approaches the best moments of Califone, all sparse acoustic guitar and swelling cello, but it also highlights The Acorn’s biggest flaw: the band does a good job of approaching a nice range of folk and well-traversed, well-worn styles, but they never really nail anything.

As the fire dies down, “Flood Pt. 2” finds our storytellers weary, endearing, and close to the bottom of the wine bottle, which would provide a fitting end to our listening experience. Instead, we’re treated to “Lullaby (Mountain),” which is vague enough that it could be about anything. Still, at the end of things, Glory Hope Mountain achieves its humble goal. There’s not a single track here that you would see in an iPod ad, nor any fodder for the blogs, which would just cheapen The Acorn’s noble affection. It’s a fitting tribute, and it easily tramples whatever I had planned for Mother’s Day this year (thanks assholes!). Well done, boys and girls.

Most Read