Published Oct 31, 2018Like the Weather Station's Loyalty, Doug Paisley's Starter Home was recorded after an entire album's worth of music was set aside in order to make something that the artist could live with.
Yet the strain of high standards, four years and as many studios isn't apparent when listening to this effortless-sounding album. Paisley's guitar playing, reminiscent of David Rawlings' mellifluent runs, gently hints that his songs could go on forever, busting out of mellow, dusky confines into brilliant light, which is a bit like what it sounds like when Alison Melville's recorder solo carries off the gorgeously reflective "No Way to Know."
The characters in Starter Home are looking forward, looking back, thinking about what might have been and looking through windows. In the opening title track, the "starter home" a couple is convinced to buy eventually through a series of vignettes becomes a sign on a lawn to entice new people. Similarly, "This Loneliness" takes a lifelong view, glancing back to the '60s and forward to present longing. "It's the same house we lived in in 1963," Paisley sings conversationally. "You were only 22, seemed so much older to me."
After the earthier "Easy Money," which sounds a little like '70s Dylan, and the nostalgic "Mister Wrong," Paisley transitions into "Drinking with a Friend," the only song on the album from 60 or 70 tracks Paisley recorded with dobro player Don Rooke, of the Henrys, along with his longtime collaborator Chuck Erlichman, who were just learning the song as it was being recorded. It carries the fleeting, spontaneous magic of players figuring it out as they go along.
Starter Home is a mostly quiet album despite its many players — including Afie Jurvanen (aka Bahamas) on guitar, Matthew Barber on harmony vocals, Michael Eckert on pedal steel and guitar, Drew Jurecka on strings, John Sheard on piano, Mandolin Orange's Joe Westerlund on percussion and both Bazil Donovan and Ben Whitely on bass.
Paisley wisely gave Jennifer Castle her own section of the album to sing backup on; she joins him on the last three songs: "This Loneliness," "Waiting," a love song that ends in her heavenly "ooos" and finally, "Shadows," a schmaltzy (for Paisley) coda that could be an encore or the backing track for a dance party during credits. (No Quarter)