Appalachian-poppers Count This Penny has the honor of making the last album to be produced at Madison, Wisconsin’s Smart Studios. Following years of phenomenal albums from the likes of Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie, the studio went out on a high note with Pitchman.
I’m fortunate enough to live in the same city as Count This Penny (Amanda Rigell, Allen Rigell, and John Ray), and thus have gotten to see them perform on several occasions. It’s impossible to divorce the band’s live show from their recorded material, and that’s a gift. There’s a certain intimacy about CTP; they draw you in and make you feel like you’re part of the show, yet at the same time deliver something so special that you feel like you’ve stumbled onto a private moment not meant for everyone.
Pitchman‘s title track is one of Count This Penny’s most instantly memorable songs. Murder ballad “Big Tall Pines” is the kind of song that makes you want to give up everything and start over, riding the rails and busking in one small town after the next. I’m always taken by surprise with Amanda’s delivery on the word ‘matchbox’ near the end of the tune – both rhythmically and by the edge in her voice.
Amanda also shines on “I-26 Waltz”; her overdubbed vocals have a delicate interplay that sounds like a more lived-in take on the sylph-like vocals of First Aid Kit. Husband Allen’s voice lends itself well to the melancholy, pure and authentic and providing balance to the darkness on tracks like “Mountain”. John Ray lends a voice of a different sort, letting his banjo sing on “Medicine” and album opener “Roll Up Your Sleeves”. In combining their individual talents, Count This Penny has put out an album that truly hits home.