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(Credit: Chris Casella)

Backwoods Meets Big City

By Adam Scoppa

Published July 1, 2011

When Moon High came onto the scene in 2008 with a full album in tow, the trio quickly gained a reputation as one of the most captivating folk outfits in the city. They were Columbus’ own shining stars in the midst of a nationwide revival movement that included the likes of Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes and Devendra Banhart, and the band’s breathy, shimmering tunes held their ground against those fast-rising contemporaries.

With the release of sophomore outing Six Suns, Moon High reminds us why they were so adored from the start. The nine-song album lasts a little over half an hour, but the sweeping tracks provide the perfect wandering journey for the duration of a hazy summer afternoon.

Like their self-titled first release, Six Suns was recorded entirely at the home of singer/guitarist David Fowler, along with songwriting partner Ryan Wells, backing vocalist/bassist Summer Sherman and percussionist Blake Pfister. The band admits that homespun recording techniques cater to their low-key aesthetic.  

“It allows us more time to really get the song ‘right,’ at least in our eyes, and there’s very little pressure to have to rush,” Wells said. “It opens up the opportunity for more experimenting and fleshing out of parts and layers. Plus there’s no set schedule, we just get to recording whenever we feel inspired to do so.”

Six Suns is bookended by two sweetly melancholy instrumentals, the first of which sets the tone for the album, planting the listener squarely on the proverbial back porch. The familiar textures of banjo, strings, glockenspiel and flute flutter in and out of the arrangements, bearing enough tension and release to keep the wispier tunes from dissipating into thin air.

Backwoods imagery abounds in different forms and moods, as exemplified by the charming “Kentucky Moonshiner” and the pointed “Autumn Leaves.” “Smoke Before My Eyes” conjures the ghosts of Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt, with Sherman’s airy backing vocals bolstering a timeless chorus. The dusty shuffle of “The End” is a standout, with Fowler’s delivery sounding simultaneously broken and assertive.

Overall, Six Suns is sparser and more visceral than its predecessor, exuding a slightly more earthbound country resonance than Moon High’s previous dreamy pastoral excursions.     

“I feel like we got more comfortable as songwriters and musicians, and that we honed in on our sound a little more,” said Wells. “We were much more self-conscious when we recorded the first record. I also think the new record was more influenced by our live show, whereas we had never played shows during the recording of our first record.”

Six Suns showcases Moon High evolving comfortably without compromising the signature sound that earned them a spot as a Columbus staple. It’s safe to assume that they won’t be a local secret much longer.

Moon High will celebrate the release of Six Suns, available digitally and on vinyl, with a show July 16th at Rumba Café (2507 Summit St.). For more information, visit www.moonhighmusic.com.