Michael Beauchamp

My Northern Voices

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For fans of any of the tunefully rustic singer/songwriters who cropped up in southeastern Michigan in the early 2000s, Michael Beauchamp's debut full-length, My Northern Voices, will feel like a ramble through familiar territory. Similar to likeminded Ypsilanti-area musicians Chris Bathgate, Matt Jones, and Misty Lyn, Beauchamp's spare, rough-hewn songs give a heavy nod to Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Gillian Welch (for literal proof of this, listen close for the Welch reference on "Oh Come to Town"). What sets Beauchamp apart from the pack is his resistance to bells and whistles. On My Northern Voices, Beauchamp doesn't indulge in ambitious instrumental flourishes and steers clear of fussy arrangements; he instead opts for simplicity. Keeping things this simple is really risky; when the production is this clean, a lot of pressure is placed on the small foundational details. Thankfully, Beauchamp is a rock-solid songwriter, and his voice -- hovering somewhere between Bathgate's mournful croon and Jones' whimsical falsetto -- is simply a joy to behold. Like Bathgate, Beauchamp is at his best when he sounds completely miserable. Tracks like "Do What You Could" and "Muddy Shore" are simply spellbinding, showcasing Beauchamp at his most engaged as a singer, songwriter, and storyteller; they're gorgeously chilly, made out of the kind of deep, dark stuff that would do Bonnie "Prince" Billy proud. Not that the entire album is moody -- Beauchamp shakes things up with a few lighthearted tracks; "Gamble/ Drink All My Money" and "Oh Come to Town" do a lot to lighten the mood and keep things from getting too dreary. Really, though, the main event here is Beauchamp's willingness to be eerie, sad, and soulful. It's the misery that makes My Northern Voices such a promising debut.

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