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Music Review: Good Old War – Only Way to Be Alone

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Free from posturing and pretentiousness, Good Old War’s Only Way to Be Alone delivers trouble-free music for difficult times.

The trio, once members of progressive rock group Days Away, have pulled together a brilliant collection of songs on their debut full length record. Only Way to Be Alone, produced by Rick Parker, offers up sweet and unassuming music for those tired of redundant musical gimmickry. Without a drop of pomposity or fakery, this is one album that means what it says and says what it means.

Keith Goodwin (guitars/vocals), Tim Arnold (drums/vocals), and Dan Schwartz (guitar/vocals) chose the name Good Old War based on the “war” that can be the artistic process in these times. It is a worthwhile battle, mind you, and these twenty-somethings have laid down their arms in favor of a blend of dazzling three-part harmonies, acoustic honesty, and clear-cut percussion.

Alternative Press noted that Good Old War “have mastered the art of three-part harmonies and their lively and intricate songs are a throwback to the days when Crosby, Stills And Nash ruled the rock world.” There is certainly truth to that statement, as these young men have constructed music that sounds as though it fits neatly in any of the last five decades.

Only Way to Be Alone is ideal for sifting through old photographs, remembering prom dates, cruising down open roads to nowhere, or simply practicing the fine art of forgetting.

“Looking for Shelter,” for instance, is like wind in the hair and deep city lights all at once. Check out the lavish harmonies, the agile guitar, and the tender percussion. “We’ll just know when it’s right,” sings Goodwin backed affectionately by Arnold and Schwartz. Indeed we will.

Tinged with Americana but not drenched in characterless jingoism, Only Way to Be Alone is about life and living regardless of locale.

“Coney Island” was written by Schwartz and reminds us of more than a few good reasons to “hate it here.” And the faithfully poignant “Weak Man” stuns with guest vocals from Anthony Green and a sense of belligerence. Bluesy and edgy, the cut is one of the best on this brilliant record.

There is a sort of campfire quality to some of the tunes, such as the radiantly warm “Stay by My Side,” featuring vocals from Claire and Allison Wadsworth. One can almost hear the crackling logs in the flames as the harmony envelops the listener. It is enthralling, riveting, and remarkably simple.

With Only Way to Be Alone, Good Old War has crafted a pleasantly rustic album. Nothing is strained, nothing is manipulated, nothing is out of place. This is undemanding folk rock, sparkling with tinges of pop and almost a sense of chamber music magnificence. Music for our times and music for all time, Only Way to Be Alone is one of the most natural records I’ve heard in a long, long time.

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About Jordan Richardson

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’d almost swear you were describing Fleet Foxes here. Sounds like a great record though. I’ll have to find some tracks to sample. Thanx Jordan.

    -Glen

  • Jordan Richardson

    If you like the Foxes, you’re pretty much guaranteed to like Good Old War. I highly recommend checking them out.

  • vulva king

    I saw them live when they were on tour with Anthony Green. I really enjoyed their set. The vocal harmonies caught me off guard big time. I didn’t know what to expect from them. I’d like to point out that Tim Arnold is a great drummer. Shown more on his work with Days Away and his efforts. “The Devils Song” (Greens song) is such a masterful performance live. “Looking for Shelter” from the Good Old War is one of my favorites easily. I hope that they are always his backing band for his solo work.