REVIEW: Twain - Rare Feeling

Phillipe Roberts

Blessed with a honeyed voice that overpowers even the bitterest sorrows, twain singer Mt. Davidson probably gives one hell of pep talk. Rare Feeling, the latest offering from the alt-country outfit, gets under your skin with an unflinching optimism that, if it didn’t feel so hard-won or well intentioned, might come off as forced. But like a best friend poking at your ribs until you see the brighter side, or an angel on your shoulder pointing you towards the high road, Davidson and co. deliver a rambling, feel-good sermon of a record. As the seasons turn towards introspection, twain make a golden case for turning your heart outwards.

Tucked away in the middle of the record, the central thesis of Rare Feeling rings out like a glass-half-full plea for hope: “Life won’t last long / For those who hate it / For those who love it / It lingers on like a dream.” The song in question is “Freed From Doubt,” a rose-tinted reverie of a solitary smoke break given over to Zen-like brooding. It's the album’s shortest track but nevertheless serves as a kind of mission statement, pulling the overarching lyrical themes of gratitude and acceptance to the fore. Front to back, Davidson sings like a man reborn from the ashes, alternating between yearning for spiritual guidance (“Rare feeling / Visit me and set my mind at ease” on the title track) and celebrating the wondrous now (“Lay down with / The beauties of this earthly world / I think they want to lay down with you” on "Solar Pilgrim"). Combined with a voice that can smoothly shift gears from delicate cooing into commanding operatics on a dime, it's quite a potent formula.

As for arrangements, “Freed From Doubt” provides further illumination. A lovely guitar figure, reminiscent of the work of electronic folk maestro Bibio, plods along, knitting itself around Davidson’s charming melody like warm thread. Sparse but jaunty drums bumble around underneath, buoyed by a bass that snuggles up close to the guitars and doesn’t let go. The majority of the record takes a similar form. On "Black Chair," a piano occasionally creeps in to heighten the tense drama of romantic loss, while on “Good Old Friend (For Charlie)," flutes breeze by to serve the song’s majestic beauty, but overall, the band tends to hang back, happy to let Davidson lead the proceedings. When they leap out to the front on the slow-churning confessional “Rare Feelings v. 2,” the piled-on distortion achieves a stunning effect.  You can practically see the sweat dripping down Davidson’s face as the church walls melt down around him.

Wearing these gospel influences like a badge of honor, Rare Feeling finds its surest footing when submerged in the hymnal qualities that elevate its country blues to the level of soul-breaking catharsis. As the lights dim on the shuffling chant of “I’m never going down / Even if they all pass me by” on closer “Good Old Friend,” it seems like the track could and should go on forever. Davidson's voice dissipates into the ether but the chant snowballs into a defiant, angelic chorus. It's exactly the kind of moment of muted thunder that keeps you coming back for a shoulder to lean on.