November 01 1998
Music Reviews Quarterly



The folk/pop duo of Joti Rockwell and Nathan Church Hubbard would be fairly indistinguishable from the standard crop of two-sensitive-guys-with-acoustic-guitars if not for a couple of very important qualities. They play music like it means something to them and they write songs just like they play.

There is a propulsive tension between the guitars of Rockwell and Hubbard that is reminiscent of Michael Hedges' battles with himself filled with funky, chunky, oddly times chords laced over with circuitous and spidery leads and fills. The strong pop element that bubbles up through many of Rockwell Church's arrangements is reminiscent of the late Kevin Gilbert while the folky bits nod in the direction of David Wilcox and Luka Bloom.

As for the songs themselves, Nathan Hubbard, the group's songsmith writes about affairs of the heart and life on the road and makes them both seem like fresh songwriting subjects, no mean feat in these cliche ridden times. "Click Your Heels" revisits the principals from The Wizard of Oz, examining the scarecrow's regret as he longs for the heart of the tin man to accommodate his love for Dorothy in his newly acquired (and suddenly superfluous) brain. "Closer to You" manages to sound like a Pearl Jam demo, with Hubbard's vocal gymnastics veering between Eddie Vedder and sashes of Chris Whitley at his best, while "Geneva" and "Back in Line" both offer that doleful Wilcox vibe in both execution and tone.

Rockwell Church's symbiosis is in almost ecological balance, as Rockwell and Hubbard ultimately become each other's secret weapon to accomplish their own individual ends within the context of the whole. Hubbard's songs are gorgeous and simple and lend themselves perfectly to the ministrations of multi-instrumentalist Rockwell, whose filigrees of banjo, organ, and guitar are always tasteful and appropriate to the material. Rockwell and Hubbard could easily stand on their own with their considerable individual talents, but their combined synergy is too exceptional to even consider that alternative.

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