Few 21st century singers and songwriters have mastered the art of sounding sweetly bummed out as completely as Dave Heumann of Arbouretum, and if that seems like an esoteric talent, there's no denying his commitment to his craft. With each album from Arbouretum, Heumann reveals an even greater skill for baring his soul and evoking his weary sorrow, and 2017's Song of the Rose is no exception. This music lives in a no man's land between U.K. folk-rock of the '60s and '70s and hard rock before the genre was taken over by metal, and Arbouretum are capable of sounding big and powerful while employing a gentle touch that makes the music all the more emotionally resonant. Heumann's rough but eloquent guitar work lends these songs some rock & roll gravity without robbing them of their folky eloquence. And his bandmates -- Corey Allender on bass, Matthew Pierce on keyboards, and Brian Carey on drums -- help him fill out a surprisingly broad sonic canvas, and if the arrangements are concise, the results are admirably spacious. The lyrics don't always have the same clarity as the music, but even Heumann's more abstract moments feel intelligent and honestly felt in context, and the more direct statements of "Absolution Song" and "Comanche Moon" hit their targets decisively. The engineering by Steve Wright is superb, catching the performances with an unobtrusive clarity and adding a welcome sense of atmosphere when it's needed. Song of the Rose won't do much for your next dance party, but if you're looking for music that's intelligent and introspective but still revels in the beauty of the world around us, then Arbouretum have made an album you need to hear.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming