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  1. White Snow [MP3]
  2. Red Red Fox
  3. Soldiers War
  4. Anything With Words
  5. Pretty Girl
  6. Hawks and Crows
  7. Dead Bird
  8. Said in Stones
  9. Alligators and Owls
  10. Hey Ray
  11. Out Behind the House
  12. The History of Weather

"Weaver delivers a candid and organic album deep-rooted in folk with a wisdom bordering that of Lou Reed. The Ax in the Oak is an uncompromising raw legacy of both turmoil and redemption." —The Sentimentalist

"The Ax in The Oak plays through my apartment passing through the thins walls slowly filling each room with it’s bittersweet melodies. I find it hard to write this review because I’d rather just sit on the couch with a beer and cigarette and take it in. But I’ve already done that about three times, so I guess time to get down and describe this great album to you, so maybe you’ll ante up and check it out as well..." —One Kind Radio

Ben Weaver The Ax in the Oak

BS 156 2008 $5.95
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After years of chopping wood to keep his house warm, Ben Weaver has left the ax in the oak. It’s a statement of confidence as well as an artistic metaphor for Weaver, whose sixth studio album, The Ax in the Oak, is his most realized and mature work to date—the culmination of personal and musical growth for the 29 year old, and his time to enjoy the fire he’s stoked.

For the recording of The Ax in the Oak, Weaver traveled from the Twin Cities where he is based, to Chicago’s Engine Studios where he teamed up again with Brian Deck (Iron and Wine, Modest Mouse), the producer with whom he worked with on his 2007 release Paper Sky. Drawn together by mutual friends and a love for the shimmering, electronic pop of Austrian-based musician Christian Fennesz, Weaver and Deck made a conscious effort to take a more experimental approach to create the mise en scene for Weaver’s songs; Weaver came into the studio with only half of the basic melodies and chord structures written for each song, and the duo took turns going in and out of the live room working on each others’ previous idea.

Apropos to Deck’s work with Califone, the result is an organic album with electronic elements, thoughtfully complimenting Weaver’s earth-honest and indelicate delivery, while also not completely neglecting his folk-roots. It also yielded Weaver’s first instrumental composition (“Said in the Stones”). Joining Weaver and Deck in the studio were cellist Julia Kent (Antony and The Johnsons), vocalist Erica Froman (Anathallo), and some of Ben’s friends: Will Duncan (drums), Blake Sloan (bass), and Steve Reidell (bass, Hood Internet). Ax was recorded in Chicago, but the writing took place in Berlin, where Weaver bunked in a 4th floor courtyard apartment for several weeks during July 2007. Weaver’s approach to songwriting is not your typical verse-chorus-verse arrangements, but rather little song-stories about birds, phone booths, empty parking lots, strangers in the checkout line, plastic bags stuck in trees and other things that may go unnoticed in life’s overstuffed Wunderkammer. Weaver’s mood is double-edged; darkness and melancholy always live in close proximity to a romantically hopeful and redeeming view of the human condition.

Weaver returned to Berlin after the recording of the album—to the same apartment—to draw all the artwork for The Ax in the Oak. But it’s not the first time Weaver’s explored the 2-dimensional side to his art: His limited-edition, hand-printed chapbook of poems and drawings, “Hand Me Downs Can Be Haunted,” sold out the first two printings and is now in its third. Weaver has also contributed a story to an upcoming anthology being gathered by Steve Horowitz for Mellville House—each selection of fiction is written by a songwriter. Expected to be in bookstores in March 2009, Weaver will be featured along with the likes of Renee Sparks of The Handsome Family, Greg Brown and Jolie Holland.

"...has perfectly balanced his bleak, bleary-eyed lyricism with more uplifting poetry, and his rustic backwoods-folk sound with modern urban ambience. Deep, beautiful stuff." —Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The main benefit of Weaver and Deck’s open-minded approach is the tension generated within many of the songs between Weaver’s traditional sound and the colors brought in by this new instrumentation. All of this might make The Ax in the Oak sound like a stylistic exercise that’s better in theory than in practice, but the album’s actually one of Weaver’s most accessible efforts so far." —Popmatters

"The unpretentious intelligence and skillful wordplay of Weaver's lyrics go a long way towards making The Ax in the Oak a richly satisfying work for grownup listeners, and the imaginative surroundings Weaver, Deck and a handful of sympathetic musicians have crafted for these songs only make them stronger and more affecting." —All Music Guide

"Listen closer to Weaver's songs and that urban/rural balance subtly plays itself out in his music. There's a tug of war between traditional folk, the stuff of open chords and blue skies, and contemporary indie-rock fare. Weaver seems to instinctually know that in 2008, back-to-basics folkies are a dime a dozen, and tweaks the sound to incorporate a full band and piano without losing faith with his roots." —

"All his experience informs the dusky, vaguely Beckish troubadour's latest CD, which finds him decorating his warm, colourfully detailed Americana narratives with lush strings, skittery beatboxes, noisy textures and experimental sonics. A seamless blend of old and new." —Toronto Sun

"The Ax in the Oak could succeed as an album with little more than Ben Weaver’s guitar; his gruff, earthy vocals; and his haunting, literate, and strikingly un-clichéd lyricism. But the 29-year-old Weaver doesn’t stop there. Instead, he textures the album with electronic accents, cello flourishes, and angelic backing vocals that elevate the 12 tracks into the tree tops, and, at times, casts them down into the dirt." —An Honest Tune



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