Personnel: Vic Chesnutt (vocals, guitar); Efrim Manuel Menuck (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Jessica Moss (vocals, violin); Nadia Moss (vocals, piano, organ); Guy Picciotto, Chad Jones (guitar).
Audio Mixer: Howard Bilerman.
AT THE CUT reunites Vic Chesnutt with several of the collaborators who helped make his extraordinary 2007 album, NORTH STAR DESERTER, and while you can't force lightning to strike twice in the same place, Chesnutt and this group of gifted musicians have managed to create something similarly powerful and affecting that also has a personality of its own. With Howard Bilerman behind the recording console, Guy Picciotto helping with the production and arrangements, and members of Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra accompanying Chesnutt, this follows a similar template to NORTH STAR DESERTER, but AT THE CUT manages to sound more approachable and direct while still conjuring up striking and atmospheric clouds of sound that reinforce Chesnutt's melodies even while broadening their horizons into something grand, beautiful, and challenging. Chesnutt doesn't need to bend his songs to the needs of his accompanists, and while a look at the lyric sheet reveals the same sort of skewed Southern gothic archetypes that have always dominated his compositions, these musicians bring out a side in the music that doesn't always rise to the surface in other hands, and the slow, contemplative shuffle of "We Hovered with Short Wings," the muscular dread of "Chinaberry Tree," and the sweet, twangy drift of "Concord County Jubilee" give his images just the backdrops they need. And lest anyone think the musicians are taking Chesnutt's music in a direction he wouldn't consider going himself, the closing number, "Granny," is as powerful and dramatic as anything that came before it, and it creates a large and vivid world with just Chesnutt's voice and an acoustic guitar. AT THE CUT isn't as great a surprise as NORTH STAR DESERTER, but if you thought the brilliance of that album was a happy accident, this confirms these musicians complement each other very well and hopefully will continue to do so for a long time to come.
Spin (p.76) - "The songwriter has been reading a lot and he can still get at the ick of life with passion."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.92) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Stipe himself has already claimed this as some of Chesnutt's best work, and you hear plenty of reciprocal vocal influences on long, low, near-slumbering tracks..."