At the end of March I received a message from Dastardly frontman Gabe Liebowitz regarding Ty Maxon’s latest LP, Calling Of The Crows. Knowing that in the endless wave of music available on the internet I may have overlooked this release by his friend and sometime tourmate, he wanted to ensure that I took a listen. After that, things got busy. Both at work and here on the site there were things that took my mind away from Mr. Maxon’s album and left it a blurry image in my mind’s rearview. Within the last week I was suddenly startled by the memory. So I went to the bandcamp page where this album is kept, and I listened. And listened. And listened.
On this, his sixth album, Maxon has crafted a tapestry of folk styles detailing american music from the turn of the century to modern times. His subtle finger-picked guitar and soft, haunting vocals bring to mind a sepia-toned train ride through the wild west. In the effort to conjure these images, he is joined by Ryan Suzuka on harmonica. Suzuka’s locomotive call is more than enough to put your mind in a dark and dank railcar inhabited with hoboes and travellers looking for a better tomorrow.
Calling Of The Crows is definitely a record that needs to be listened to in its entirety. Just checking out a couple songs doesn’t really give you the full effect. Luckily after about a minute of the first track, “To Theoda,” you won’t want to turn it off. Instead it will take over your headspace and flow through your body until it quietly drifts away with the final notes of the seven and a half minute “Mostly Everything.” It leaves you asking, like Maxon himself, “What have you done to me?”
For the most part this is a pretty somber record. Under influences Maxon lists names like Nick Drake and Townes Van Zandt, which is undeniable. But when I listen to his voice, all I can think of is Elliott Smith. They share a raw and vulnerable heart in their voices that immediately adds resonance to the emotion beneath the songs. Never is that brought out more than the title track.
He’s joined on that track by another Chicago singer/songwriter, Rachele Eve. Calling Of The Crows is a very collaborative album that brings together a great group of musicians. In addition to Eve and Suzuka’s contributions, Tyler James Beach adds some nice banjo work on “Waking The Dead.” Between everyone that helped out, and the fact that this record was made over the course of three years, it’s amazing that the sound ends up as consistent as it does. I suppose that is due to Maxon’s vision as an artist. I have no doubt that this is exactly the record he set out to make, and it’s one that I think most everyone can enjoy.
If you’d like to check it out before you buy it, you can streat Calling Of The Crows in full on Ty’s Bandcamp page. I doubt you’ll hear all of it prior to clicking the Download Now button.