Review: The Lonesome Trio

The Lonesome Trio CD, released this summer on Sugar Hill Records, is a pleasantly unassuming collection of twelve songs written and played by three old classmates from Oberlin College—bassist Ian Riggs, mandolinist Jacob Tilove and guitar/banjo player Ed Helms. The album goes down like a lemon shandy on a moderately warm Asheville (where the album was written and recorded) afternoon, with just enough alcoholic content to make you notice when you stand up to take a step toward the bathroom, but not enough that you might stumble or decide to kick up your heels. But then Oberlin never was a school for hard drinkers, and you might still need a notary on hand if you plan on graduating from kissing to heavy petting whilst confined to campus.

If Helms’ name sounds familiar, it should. He was a correspondent on “The Daily Show,” played the dorky Cornell grad Andy Berhard on “The Office” and has been in a string of goofy movies ever since. Although better known in the wider world than his cohorts, he doesn’t dominate here. No one does. They just sweetly blend voices and instruments in an effort to put across a mildly witty, mildly sentimental, somewhat traditional-sounding collection of original songs. I could list the titles but you can find them on the back of the CD or conveniently online, I am sure. In all fairness, there are one or two that emerge from the fog of mediocrity, particularly “The House Song (Sung by a House)” which features some sweet mandolin played over a sprightly waltz and the poignant lament of a summer house neglected by its part time inhabitants. The song’s sweetly brooding instrumental coda is one the CD’s more noticeable musical passages.

“The House Song (Sung By A House)”

In conclusion, I would say not to avoid this album, but don’t seek it out either. If it happens to find you, play it…even listen to it. It will slide into and through you like that summer shandy did. And your health will be none the worse for it.

Jeff Clapp

Jeff Clapp, a retired English prof and longtime guitar player, used to play regularly with the HVBA and now jams with various seagulls in South Portland ME.

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