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Boomkat Product Review:
You may have encountered J. Tillman's work previously thanks to a series of brilliant solo albums like Minor Works, I Will Return and Long May You Run (the latter two having been paired together into a single volume a couple of months ago), but after an all-conquering 2008, you're likely to be most familiar with Tillman as the drummer in Fleet Foxes. It's a mark of just how much talent the Seattle band have amongst their ranks that a lowly skinsman - their Ringo, if you will - is able to pen a collection of songs as alarmingly good as those assembled on this record. And furthermore, just listen to that voice: no wonder Fleet Foxes recordings are laden with such effortless, water-tight harmonies when even the guy at the back of the stage can sing like this. Tillman's warm, smoke-filled intonations are impossibly soft and heart-rendingly emotive at every turn, single-handedly multi-tracking immaculate choral sequences on 'Vessel', 'First Born' and the quietly devastating 'No Occasion'. When it comes to the pared-down, most archetypal, singer-songwriter' styled compositions, 'James Blues' is up there with the very best in Iron & Wine's catalogue when it comes to modernising rickety old Americana dynamics, and the roomy, uncomplicated recording on this one shows that Tillman needn't endlessly stack up those vocals to produce something spine-tinglingly effective. But then Vacilando Territory Blues isn't all about one man and his acoustic guitar either: by the time we get to 'Steel On Steel' full-band arrangements are starting to kick in, and its uptempo, brass-laden shuffle provides an excuse for Tillman to break out of the slowed-down Nashville mold. 'New Imperial Grand Imperial Blues' is an altogether more electrified and amped up number than anything heard on previous Tillman albums - there's even a bit of sax-born discord at the beginning of the track, further removing the overall texture of Vacilando Territory Blues from any notions of by-the-book alt. country-rock. Very highly recommended indeed.