Doveman is 25-year old Thomas Bartlett and a select group of collaborators. On his sophomore album, With My Left Hand I Raise the Dead, the band includes banjo player Sam Amidon, a folk singer and old childhood friend; drummer Dougie Bowne, sideman to Iggy Pop, the Lounge Lizards, and Cassandra Wilson; guitarist and conjurer Shahzad Ismaily, who has previously appeared with that magical trifecta -- Marc Ribot, the Master Musicians of Joujouka, and Rage Against the Machine; and trumpeter Peter Ecklund, an expert in genres like swing and dixieland jazz.
(psychedelic squiggles via short wave radio)
In 2005, Doveman released his debut, The Acrobat, ten songs, most of which had one-word titles. For all intents and purposes self-released, Pitchfork rated it an 8.0, proclaiming it, "A fascinating debut... One wants to build a seedy yet expensive wine lounge somewhere in East Village just to be able to play this album around last call." Stereogum.com
said his music was "wistful, emotive, and delicately piercing." Time Out NY called it "soul music for heady loners," and commended a frontman who "often sounds as if he's on the brink of passing out from heartache fumes."
Doveman's sophomore album With My Left Hand I Raise the Dead was produced, engineered and mixed by Grammy Award winner Patrick Dillett with assorted creaks, clinks and interludes recorded by Thomas at home. (Dillett's previous recording and production credits include Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, David Byrne, and Caetano Veloso.) The record sounds simultaneously more mature and more precocious than its predecessor. The 16 tunes that make up the album alternate between melancholic chamber pop, sleepy folk music, and interludes which have more to do with lush, modern classical, and experimental music. The songwriting and execution is that of a master craftsman, with meticulous attention paid to every detail. However, it's the voice of Bartlett -- a heartbreaking, barely-there sound -- that gives the compositions their heft. Weighing in at over an hour in length, the record is of a piece, its interludes as intriguing as the songs. It is a dense, experiential affair; a challenging yet engaging record that will truly reward repeat listening.
(Thomas's parents live part time in Kathamandu, Nepal, Tibet, and he grew up playing the Bach's Suites and "The Well Tempered Clavier" -- facts about which this a reminder.)
With My Left Hand I Raise the Dead is an ebbing then swelling, oceanic thing, it comes than goes; tickles your ears then pokes you in the ribs; has unstoppable momentum ("Sunrise"; "Chasing Clouds,") when it is not finding new ways to climax ("The Sunken Queen," "Happy") or standing absolutely stock still ("Tender Mercies"; "Castles").
When listening to this music you should keep in mind artists such as Frederic Chopin, Cat Power, Keith Jarrett, Talk Talk, and Chris Whitley -- unless you don't know any them or are not a fan, in which case you should keep in mind Nick Drake, The National, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, and other, trendier bands whose music has recently appeared in car commercials.
(does a Doveman feel the blues?)
When has anger been delivered so softly?
(anticipate the reprise)
Why don't more artists make music that gets more ambiguous and memorable with time?
(more ghosts on the shortwave radio)
How many singer-songwriters are also expert improvisers?
(more Bach with moving chairs & some bagpiper appeal)
Most artists make an album and call it a day. Doveman has crammed two great albums together, and the result is what you hold in your hands.
(we end where we begin)
Let Doveman be your new favorite man, or your new favorite band. Or don't. I mean, it's not like we care. Except when we really, really do.