The Lowest Pair – Uncertain as It Is Uneven
Palmer T. Lee and Kendl Winter, known together as The Lowest Pair, are singer/songwriters who fell in love with traditional music in their late teens and soon immersed themselves in the surrounding scene. It’s heartening in this day of electronic and rap music that young men and women can still opt for such comparatively simple means of self expression. The simplicity, however, is deceiving. What strikes us as simple about The Lowest Pair’s music isn’t that at all – instead, it’s honesty and sincerity depicted in song. The eleven songs on their album Uncertain as It Is Uneven open windows on their hearts and lives without pretension or self-indulgence marring the view. Lee, a native Minnesotan, and the Arkansas-born Kendl Winter stand among the leading lights in a musical movement that’s went on for over hundred years and shows no signs of ever dying entirely.
Lee’s vocal presence is much more dominant on this release than the duo’s other simultaneously released album, Fern Girl and Ice Man. Songs like “Keeweenaw Flower”, “Lonesome Sunrise”, and “37 Tears” benefit from his firm baritone voice and the slight twang that distinguishes so many of the lines. It helps both singers that, of course, the duo’s powers of lyrical invention are high throughout, but Lee’s intelligent approach strengthens the songwriting quality. The first of the previously mentioned trio, “Keeweenaw Flower”, is a beautifully rendered take on classic folk music traditions with some particularly eloquent, but carefully arranged for maximum melodic value. “Lonesome Sunrise” and “37 Tears” are very different tunes – the first is much more an arch traditionalist outing that takes much from the genre’s songwriting history while “37 Tears” is closer to performed poetry and features some of the album’s best writing.
Winter turns in many stellar performances. The first, Uneven as It Is Uncertain’s opener “The Company I Keep”, is packed with a lot of emotion, but works so well because the emotion is never overplayed or inflated. Her vocal on “The Sky is Green” brings its luminous writing fully to life and imbues it with a childlike wonder that pushes back against any encroaching bittersweet moments. “Mason’s Trowel” occupies a similar position to the song “Totes” on Fern Girl and Ice Man. It’s a short, lyrically involved song that comes near the album’s end and promises to make a lot of lists as the album’s sleeper track. Lee sings this one, much like he does “Totes”, and does a spectacular job
The album’s second to last song, “Pretend It’s True”, is characterized by its patient build and an aura of palpable melancholy. Winter inhabits the song completely. The eleven songs on Uneven as It Is Uncertain will stay with you long after you’ve given the album a few spins. These are remarkably simple, yet nuanced, tracks deeply concerned with people and how they live their lives. There’s no pretension or melodrama – The Lowest Pair have delivered an album that’s as honest as it gets.
9 out of 10 stars.