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Port O'Brien: Joy At The Edge Of Sorrow

According to Herman Melville, "At sea a fellow comes out. Salt water is like wine in that respect." The members of Port O'Brien know from water, dirt and seafaring hard work: Songwriters Cambria Goodwin and Van Pierszalowski let their many months-long excursions in Alaska — working at a bakery and on a fishing boat, respectively — inform their ethereal folk in exciting and unpredictable ways.

Based in California with summer trips to Kodiak Island, Port O'Brien offers an unromantic but soulful look at the time spent toiling in isolation with the wind at one's back. "Sour Milk / Salt Water" — from the band's mournful second album, Threadbare — is the most literal interpretation of the musicians' hands-on experiences, even in its production: All the reverb and the backwards-guitar melodies are non-computerized and organic, made by playing tapes in reverse, and barely touched in final mastering. Pierszalowski spits out lyrics at a surprisingly rapid pace, and while "Sour Milk / Salt Water" hangs on the edge of sorrow, it can't mask the joy of satisfying work in an exotic locale.

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Afton Lorraine Woodward