Joel Thibodeau of Death Vessel is a tiny, raven-haired man from the state of Maine. He writes delicate, often-pretty folk songs and sings them in the high-pitched croon of a pre-teen girl. He sounds so feminine, in fact, that those who don't know better are taken aback when you tell them: "You know thats a dude singing, right?" However peculiar his vocal style may be, it's also not the least bit contrived or ironic. With Death Vessel, Thibodeau crafts an Americana of his own: Like a patchwork quilt, his music favors beauty, restraint, and simplicity. The subject matter on his latest, Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us, is elusive and his shy vocal cadence actually empowers such lyrics as "My throat hurts, not from yelling but holding back" ("Block My Eye"). The songs often swing like clothes drying on the line, other times they shimmer like a sun-dappled creek and sometimes they reach for the clouds like a Lavender Diamond anthem. In the same way Will Oldham's early work evoked imagery of the singer-as-sweet-but-troubled-farmboy, Death Vessel sounds like the shy farm girl who would rather stay at home making beeswax candles than go to the dance. One imagines Thibodeau to be similar in real lifeexcept he's a guy, alone at home with a guitar and notebook.
Thu., Sept. 4, 9 p.m., 2008