album reviews

Carbon Leaf
Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat
Vanguard Records (2006)

Richmond quintet Carbon Leaf has changed a lot since its Celtic-rock beginnings in the early 1990s; its sixth studio album, "Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat," is a slick, radio-friendly affair, with catchy rhythms, glossy arrangements and soaring vocals.

Unfortunately, this pop-rock sound strips away much of Carbon Leaf's uniqueness, leaving an album full of bland, forgettable numbers. Singer Barry Privett's voice is smooth and flawless, but his lyrics often veer into banality. The hopeful sentiment of lead single "Learn to Fly" falls flat without a more convincing refrain than the generic "And as I fall apart, I learn to fly." Similarly, "Block of Wood" attempts to provide comfort with the lackluster chorus: "I can't take your pain away / But I can help you cry."

On a less literal note, "A Girl and Her Horse" looks at the mysteries of a woman through her relationship with a horse; although the metaphor is a bit obvious, it's easy to get lost in the song's catchy melody. "The War Was in Color" relates a message from a soldier to his grandson about the hardships of war; the song's most heartbreaking moment is the grandfather's hope for his grandson to have "a world without war / a life full of color." Like the rest of "Love, Loss," the message might be a bit too unrealistically optimistic, but the tone fits nicely within Carbon Leaf's new, over-polished sound.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 22 December 2006, Page WE08
.: Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat on