Joanna Newsom’s Ys soared thanks to her mellifluous harp and breathtaking lyrical twists, but it would never have lifted off of the ground in concert without the glittering wingwork of the Ys Street Band. Same could be said for the meticulous arranging on the stunning Have One On Me. Both of those feats can be credited in part to Ryan Francesconi, the multi-instrumentalist mind leading the band, as well as to Mirabai Peart’s violin acrobatics. While Francesconi’s well-documented musical knowledge runs deep, its heart lies in Balkan folk. After the couple took a trip to Greece, they decided to document that passion, and Road to Palios documents the blearily pleasant meanderings.
The album overflows with sweet nothings, Peart’s arching strings matching Francesconi’s virtuosic fingerpicked acoustic step for step. Much the way that Tennis captured their experience as a couple on a boating trip for Cape Dory, Road to Palios revels in the sweetness of their journey rather than precisely emulating the region’s musical history. That said, the churning eddies of the title track and the earthy warmth of “Kalamatianos” certainly retain much of that flavor in its easy motion.
It’s occasionally hard to notice anything but the intensely technical musicianship. The speed at which Francesconi skitters across the clusters of notes in “For Christos” coalesce with the evocative sepia landscape. The still moments abide on the lilting “Parallel Flights”, meditatively nodding on each chord, where Peart’s avian stretches are lulled by more guitar plucking.
Road to Palios feels much like the golden memories of the most pleasant trip you’ve never actually been on. Listen long enough and you’ll be there, in Greece, sitting in the grass as the sun sets.
Essential Tracks: “Road to Palios”, “For Christos”