Being invited into the home of someone you hardly know can be a bit uncomfortable. With Lullabies & Family Songs (an album that couldn't be titled anything else), Rob Watson and Mike Roy offer that kind of invitation. The duo, who co-leads the roots-gospel outfit The Whistlestop, takes an interesting approach to dealing with that potential discomfort: They throw open all the doors, wedding albums and family memories, giving the listener an all-access pass. Welcomes and farewells are shared, along with accompanying vows and prayers, celebrating the uncomplicated, mostly quiet pleasures of family life.
"Uncomplicated and mostly quiet" sums up the record's songs as well. Watson and Roy handle most of the sounds, employing twin acoustic guitars and other stringed things to create a gentle folk-country stream. The swapped vocals—Watson's the rangier, Roy's the grittier—float nicely on top, texture added by Jim Crew's keys and accordion, with splashes of pedal steel courtesy Allyn Love. The record begs close listening.
Therein lies its touch of irony: The opportunity to listen closely is a luxury that those most likely to appreciate the scenes and sentiments presented—that is, folks with young children—tend not to have. My advice: Try your best to make the time. You'll be rewarded with gorgeous songs like "Aubin," which uses the smart, subtle layering of instruments to slow-build into full brightness. It's the aural equivalent of a sunrise.
The tempo does pick up a bit toward the end, with the pairing of "This Old Piece of Wood" (a love song to a guitar instead of a wife or daughter) and "Been Thinkin' About My Baby," a full-band feel painting the pair as rockers in contrast to the hushed tones elsewhere. Same joy though, just amplified. And you might take comfort in knowing that it can get just as noisy around the Watson and Roy homes as it can your own.
The Whistlestop plays The Pour House Friday, April 17, with the Kicking Grass Band. The music starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door.