The Builders and Butchers combine folksy Americana with a hybrid of Celtic and Southern gothic traditions, creating a sound that doesn’t evoke one specific location as much as a patchwork of long-forgotten places. The guys keep things loose on their third album, Dead Reckoning, whose 12 songs were recorded in a series of live takes with few overdubs. The result isn’t as lushly textured as Salvation Is a Deep Dark Well, which found the Builders beefing up their old-time folk songs with 21st century production, but it’s far more representative of their live show. Apart from guest performers Amanda Lawrence and Zy Orange Lynn, both of whom add string parts to the album, Dead Reckoning is a stripped-down effort, with acoustic instruments taking precedence over their electric counterparts and a sense of raw, off-the-cuff energy reigning supreme. The Builders and the Butchers still brew up an expansive sound on the shanty-esque “It Came From the Sea” and the country-rocking “Black Elevator,” but they also know how to scale things back. “Blood for You” features little more than a cappella vocals and homemade percussion (which sounds like someone banging a 2X4 against the wall), while “All Away” keeps things simple with guitar, mandolin, and light organ. It’s hard not to draw parallels to the Decemberists -- fellow Portland residents whose frontman, Colin Meloy, shares a strikingly similar voice with frontman Ryan Sollee -- but Dead Reckoning is further proof that the Builders and Butchers are building their own identity.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey