- Released: August 13, 2012
- Label: Guerssen Records
Record Collector (magazine) - p.983 stars out of 5
-- "[With] wonderful vocals, subtle acoustic work and folk melodies."
- 1.Human Voices
- 3.Opus II
- 4.Things Fall Apart
- 6.Rain, Rain
- 8.If That's Entertainment
Personnel: Stephen Cohen (vocals, guitar); Rob McIntosh, Laurie Brown (vocals); Jeremy Cohen (bass guitar).
Audio Remixer: Dean Baskerville.
Liner Note Author: Stephen Cohen.
Recording information: Recording Arts Center, Eugene, OR (1984).
Arrangers: Jeff Stier; Stephen Cohen.
The discreet Oregon band the Tree People released their second album, HUMAN VOICES, as a cassette, in 1984. A minor folk gem, it remained unavailable on CD until 2009. This album contains peculiar underground folk songs and acoustic guitar-and-flute instrumentals. The writing is delicate, careful, almost fragile at times, and features occasional dissonances and complex chords that keep the emotional charge in the murky waters of melancholia, indecision, and disappointment. There is a strong influence from Pearls Before Swine and the kind of American freak folk that happened outside of the major urban centers and didn't get much exposure (or get recorded) back in the day. With hindsight, one could easily put the Tree People near the roots of the tree whose branches would give birth to a flurry of groups usually lumped together (rightfully or not) under the label "New Weird Underground." That said, this trio is closer to Simon & Garfunkel than bands like In Gowan Ring or Jackie-O Motherfucker would ever get. However, in the vocal delivery and use of recorder, one could hear a precursor of In Gowan Ring ("Opus II" falls somewhere between that band and one of Steve Hackett's instrumental tunes). Guitarist and main composer Stephen Cohen has a pleasant understated voice, with something of a childlike tone in the phrasing, as if he was pouting. The songs "Grandfather" and "Thomas" sport exquisite melodies supporting strong lyrical content, and "If That's Entertainment" is a surprising song/tirade about what the people want and what the artist is willing to give them. On the instrumentals front, the highlights are "Things Fall Apart" and "Opus II," two tracks that could appeal to a wide range of people, if they were given exposure. HUMAN VOICES is not a life-changing record, but it is definitely above average, has a timeless quality, and sweats honesty through every pore. Recommended.