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Roll on Babe

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Vetiver: Shaggy Folk, Dug Out Of Amber

Vetiver: Shaggy Folk, Dug Out Of Amber

Roll on Babe

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Friday's Pick

  • Song: "Roll On, Babe"
  • Artist: Vetiver
  • CD: Thing of the Past
  • Genre: Rock
Vetiver 300

Vetiver takes the hand-me-down folk song "Roll On, Babe" and infuses it with lived-in nostalgia. Alissa Anderson hide caption

toggle caption Alissa Anderson

Vetiver's Andy Cabic comes off as the quiet lieutenant in Devendra Banhart's bearded freak-folk militia. Vetiver's first two albums featured contributions from Banhart while fitting in well next to his shaggy, communal-sounding recordings. Cabic and Banhart draw inspiration from the same set of obscure late-'60s British folk songs, and while Vetiver's music has always sounded as if it were dug out of amber, on Thing of the Past Cabic turns to his record collection for material, not just guidance.

"Roll On, Babe" was written by a folksinger named Derroll Adams, who was born in Oregon in 1925, went to Europe in the '60s and somehow wound up mentoring Donovan. It was later covered by Ronnie Lane of The Faces, and Vetiver's recording gives the song a feeling of having been handed down over generations. Covers can feel slight or overly earnest, but Vetiver infuses Thing of the Past with warm, lived-in nostalgia.

Jumping trains and drinking whiskey figure into Adams' words, but Vetiver seems more interested in a feeling than a message. Cabic's vocals convey a gauzy, soft resignation that makes the solitude in Adams' lyrics seem inevitable, as if loneliness were just a part of his past that'll come around again soon enough. Layers of cleanly picked guitar, shuffling drums and an organ (or is that a distant train whistle?) weave around Cabic until the whole song sounds like a sigh. It's so gentle, it sounds as if it's fading out from the minute it begins, but it's lovely enough that you can't wait for it to circle back around.

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