All Things in Time
On his freshman album, The Submarine, modern-day troubadour Whitley (aka Lawrence Greenwood) takes a fresh approach to folk music. He infuses it with electronic elements to create his own unique sound. His smoky, emotive voice is doubled on many tracks to provide mystery and depth to his thoughtful lyrics.Whitley is at his best when he embraces the traditional. The Simon and Garfunkelesque “More Than Life” has a simple traversing guitar as the main musical force. The song benefits from having a female vocalist provide harmonyâ€šÃ„Ã®something which appears too infrequently on the album. She also shows up on “A Shot to the Stars,” helping to give that song a more polished sound than many of the others.
In contrast, other attempts to add complexity to the music end up sounding amateurish. “The Life I Keep” has evocative lyrics addressing one’s own mortality, but the opening soundsâ€šÃ„Ã®like twittering electronic birdsâ€šÃ„Ã®are distracting. And while the guitar playing on the album is competent, the banjo playing doesn’t measure up. It sounds like the banjo is played by someone who only knows how to play guitar, not by someone really interested in exploring the banjo’s unique qualities and capabilities.
Ultimately the album plays it safe instead of cutting loose and going for it. The doubled voice becomes overused and doesn’t create the intended dynamic impact on all songs. But these mistakes are easy to forgive. The banjo and singing in harmony can both be learned over time, and at only 22 Whitley has the time. If The Submarine is any indication of things to come, he will only get better with age.