Half-Handed Cloud – Cut me down and count my rings
You don’t see too many albums with forty-six tracks on it these days. Oh, don’t worry; it won’t take you hours to listen to Half-Handed Cloud’s Cut Me Down and Count My Rings. In fact, only one song is over three minutes in length. Every other song is less than three minutes, some even less than two, and yet even others less than one. Therein lies the blessing and the curse of this album.
Fans of HHC are already familiar with the short song model from their previous releases, Thy Is a Word, and Feet Need Lamps and Halos & Lassos, to name a couple. There is a certain uniqueness and charm to the sequencing of songs here – especially to a generation with an extremely short attention span. But right around track # 14, I began to feel like I was listening to a series of spiritual jingles rather than an album. This doesn’t break the mold for those already familiar with the band, but for a first impression – it’s a rocky start.
This being said, John Ringhofer is an extremely talented musician and songwriter. The material is consistently light and fun. Most of it would work very well on soundtracks to indie films (Think Dan in Real Life). Guitar and trombone contribute to much of the sound, along with vocal harmonizing reminiscent to the Partridge Family (but in a good way). Overall, the style of the music on Cut Me Down and Count My Rings is a type of quirky singer/songwriter folk with deep theological themes.
The bio section of the band’s website says it best, “Half-handed Cloud is able to ensconce complicated theological concepts into playground song without condescending to his subject or to his listener.” I find this statement to be absolutely true. As spiritual in nature as these lyrics are, they don’t feel “preachy” at any moment. And there are songs that seemingly break from the “Shepherd and Sheep” metaphor all together like on “Bees Baked A Loaf For Me (or Flour From Flowers)”: As I go for honeyed bread, I wear a net upon my head, To keep the bees outside instead of landing on my face.
Ironically, my two favorite songs are the longest ones: “Bees Are Trying To Build Their Nest In You” and “Home for Christmas”. Call me old fashioned, but I like having a few minutes for a song to take shape and develop different dynamics. These two songs did exactly that.
So Cut Me Down and Count My Rings may not be for everyone. But for all of those heavy laden from a hard day’s work, the light-heartedness of this album, complimented by good musicianship, may just give you some rest. Other key tracks include: “Once, Twice, Seven Times A Werewolf”, “We’re Not Getting Well” and “Ten Commandment Tombstone”.