Low Country (Razor & Tie)
Reviewed by Michael Toland, Fri., Sept. 23, 2016
The Sword's previous High Country spent a lot of time and effort on excursions into Southern folk, blues, and synth rock, hoping to lead the neo-metal local quartet out of its stylistic corner. Low Country, an acoustic take on the same LP, revitalizes the songs by tying them together with stronger artistic thread. Without having to compete with stacks of amplifiers, J.D. Cronise's relaxed singing finally suits the material, melodies emerging more confidently. The approach underlines the bluesiness in "Mist & Shadow" and "Unicorn Farm," the subtle Celtic feel to "Empty Temples," and the Seventies folk of "Ghost Eye." Creamy harmonies, meanwhile, distinguish "The Dreamthieves." The band hedges its bets by keeping the heavy groove and horn charts of "Early Snow" intact and making "Buzzards" an odd compromise between acoustic sparseness and electric aggression. Unplugged discs often indicate a holding pattern in a band's career, but Low Country trots out genuine creative advancement.