Release Date: Feb 11, 2014
Record label: Dualtone Music
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Contemporary Folk, Neo-Traditional Folk, Alternative Folk
In a 2010 article titled “An Incomplete History of How Noah Gundersen Became The Courage”, Seattle Weekly painted a picture of a young man steeped in religion, family, and the albums of Dylan’s Christian phase breaking out of a rigid home life to infect the world with folksy music. Under the influence of Counting Crows and Ryan Adams, Gundersen got a backing band called The Courage and went on tour. If you’re familiar with The Courage, then you already know much of what Ledges, Gundersen’s debut solo LP, sounds like.
Born into a musical but very religious family, Noah Gundersen didn't hear many secular songs as a child, perhaps explaining the subtle and hushed gospel intensity and sincerity he brings to his songs, which, while definitely secular, deal with themes of loss, hope, and personal redemption nonetheless. This set is his first full-length outing following a trio of EPs, and it's a quiet, mostly ballad and lament-heavy sequence that leaves a powerfully subdued and emotional residue. Aided by the presence of his younger sister Abby Gundersen, a gifted string musician who adds violin, cello, piano, and gorgeous vocal harmonies to most of these tracks, Gundersen sounds a bit like the serious narrative side of Jackson Browne if Browne had wandered into Neil Young's Harvest sessions.
Noah Gundersen’s first full-length album opens with “Poor Man’s Son,” a nearly a cappella tune featuring the Seattle singer-songwriter harmonizing with his sister Abby. He strums a few times on his acoustic guitar, but that’s mainly to let you know it’s still there. Mostly the song is about these two siblings singing together and the quiet that creeps in around their syllables.
The title track’s opening lines serve as a telling signpost to the dark-hued ruminations that course through Ledges’ set of songs: “I’ve got some loose ends/I’ve done some damage/I’ve cut the rope so it frayed/I’ve got a lot of good friends/keeping me distracted/keeping my sanity safe.” Throughout his first full-length album, the 24-year-old Gundersen addresses personal struggles, unsettled situations, and conflicted emotions of a young man starting to make his way in this world. While he deals with money troubles on the opening track, the stirring, hymn-like “Poor Man’s Son,” love woes are at the heart of most of his songs. Gundersen resists painting relationships in black and white terms.
Noah Gundersen Ledges (Dualtone) After a string of anticipatory EPs, Noah Gundersen's debut full-length delivers a collection of songs with a similar slow build. Throughout, the Seattle songwriter exhumes broken, penitent ballads that suddenly burst with a shock of power and catharsis. The pattern begins with a cappella opener "Poor Man's Son," harmonized gracefully with sister Abby.