After 2010’s debut Our Dusking Sound and the aptly titled EP Just Before the North, Small Houses released his second full-length album, North. A rootsy folk album filled with attractive vocals, charming instrumentation and great harmonies, it’s clear North is a record that should be heard. Its modest beauty is something special.
Small Houses is the folk music project of 23-year-old Michigan native, Jeremy Quentin, who approaches and creates songs with a poet’s pen and a musician’s ear. Combining elements of country, folk and indie, Quentin wonderfully melds these styles with restraint in North. And, despite North’s somewhat minimalist arrangements and no-frills quality, it is more polished than the live, one-take production of its predecessor, Just Before the North.
Written and arranged by Quentin with the exception of the gospel hymn, “I and My Maker,” which was written by Jeremy Cassar, North features help from other talented musicians such as Chris Bathgate on mandolin, Davey Jones of Frontier Ruckus playing banjo and Samantha Crain lending her voice to the harmonies. It’s these contributions that compliment Quentin’s writing and vocals adding to the album’s appeal.
On a song like the country-tinged “Country Flowers,” the rural instrumentation and Quentin’s emotional voice beautifully describes a bucolic journey through life, love or both. The upbeat “In the Lawn” features a catchy melody reminiscent of a hoedown showcasing the banjo, fiddle and Samantha Crain’s lovely vocals. My personal favorite, “Late in July” with ringing piano chords and a gentle pedal/lap steel guitar resonating in the background is a piece of music that aches with love. And, finally, the title track is the perfect mix of a homesick pedal/lap steel and a joyful banjo reflecting the song’s theme of missing the North, which in Quentin’s case is home.
North is an album I highly recommend. It’s a quietly captivating album with lovely music and thoughtful lyrics that leaves even this Southern mountain girl wanting to follow Small Houses North.