At its heart, Hundred Acres –the third full-length album from Wisconsin singer/songwriter S. Carey–finds him groundedcomfortably in his skin, but still with one foot in the stream. More direct than ever, there is a wellspring of confidence in this new batch of songs that laysbare the intricacies of lifewhile keeping its ideasuncomplicated.
Trained in jazz, Carey’s astute musicianship has never been in question nor taken for granted, and the execution of Hundred Acres’ new ideas is seamless. Heintentionally unburdened himself from a more complicated instrumentation palate for these ten songs, and, in effect,this modification tohis approach brings the content of the work much closer to a living reality. By giving equal status to the indifference of nature and the concerns of a material world –while employing more pop-oriented structures instead of the Steve Reich-or Talk Talk-ianrepetitions of his past work –a new balance is struck thatcreatessomething unique. This in turn provides equal status for the feeling that created each song, and the feeling each song creates. Almost impossibly, there is more air between the bars;Carey and his contributors sway like treetops in the wind, remaining flexible enough that they never threaten to break.
Thematically, the album is a poetic treatise on what is truly necessary in life, a surprisingly utilitarian art project that underscores the power of enduring. The simplification of songwriting didn’t arrive out of thin air; it came from the similardesire to reach for the utopia of simplicity, for daily life to be unburdened of anxiety and tethered by love. It is a way to say that returning to a more simple life, if even just a little, can heal wounds and mend the cracks. This is leadership by example rather than intervention, and for Carey, it starts at home.
In a way, these are his Kodak moments:dedications to his family laid out as songs and reminders that life, like music, has a profoundlyephemeral quality. One way to keep it is to let it flow over you. The challenge is the balance between holding on and letting go,and Hundred Acresis a master class in the trying. As a serious artist entering his prime, Carey presents these songsperhaps more like a Gerhard Richter Florenceexhibition of masterfully over-painted photos than an ad hoc collage on the family fridge. They are at first easy-going with a wide-open front door, embracing simplicity in structure and lyrical straight-forwardness, then suddenly hopelessly beautiful, revealing, and breathtaking.