"One of the ingenious things about having three-part harmonies and significant vocal contributions from all three members of a group can lead you perfectly astray when trying - or attempting - to get at the crux of a lyrical idea. Good Old War's Keith Goodwin might, technically, be considered the band's lead singer, but the way that the songs here on the band's first session with us play out, we can't be sure if we're just hearing about a specific girl or we're hearing about a whole cluster of them. We don't necessarily hope that there are numerous ladies being described here because we're not sure that they're all that great (or, more specifically, we're not sure that they're painted in the most flattering of lights), but it would take the air out of what could be a real mountain of tension, allowing it to be distributed evenly over everyone in the group. It could just be an interesting group dynamic that they're all involved with women who give them nothing but horribly mixed signals. They're great one day and then they're driving them to the loony bin the next day, only to circle back around and find a way or ways to win them back over on the third day, reinstating the cycle.
Good Old War was started by former Days Away members Keith Goodwin and Tim Arnold along with former Unlikely Cowboy member Dan Schwartz. They spent time as the studio & touring band for Anthony Green (Circa Survive) and the logical next step was to get serious as a three-piece. They already knew the musical direction would be acoustic driven with the vocals being a major part of the sound. The three-part harmonies would fall into place as a “happy accident”. The third Good Old War album Come Back As Rain was produced and engineered by Jason Cupp. It was recorded in Omaha, NE at Another Recording Company Studios. In the five weeks Good Old War spent there, 30 songs were recorded and eleven made it onto the album. Watch the guys in performance at our studio in NYC as they do three songs from the new record as well as a fan favorite from the debut album Only Way To Be Alone of 2008.
It’s a buoyant-sounding tune, carried along by three-part vocal harmonies afloat above a warm and inviting arrangement of ringing guitars and softly driving drums. By the time your toes are tapping, you might not notice the dark shading of the lyrics: the apocalyptically titled “Present for the End of the World” opens with the line “Pain, pain is in everything.”
Like many of the other tracks that Philadelphia folk-pop trio Good Old War included on its sophomore LP, Come Back as Rain, “Present for the End of the World” is a love song. Well, sort of. It walks that fine line between wanting out and wanting back in again, between splitting up and staying together. That dichotomy is summed up neatly in “Amazing Eyes” when lead vocalist Keith Goodwin sings, “You have amazing eyes/The right one’s suspicious and the left one wants my love.”
Reached on his cellphone during a day off in Nashville, Goodwin (who also plays guitar and keys) says, “It’s crazy how you can love somebody so much and still have those moments where you’re just like, ‘Oh, I wanna kill you,’ you know? That kind of thing. You get on each other a little bit. That happens, but it’s like, ‘There is something working, so let’s just go with that.’ ”
The SXSW season can often find people in our profession inundated with different sights and sounds as the festival approaches. A level of ear and visual fatigue has been known to drive more than one writer I know batty whenever any festival of this size and caliber approaches. In the sea of remixed sub bass, lyrical overload, and ‘electro-hop’ progressions that can be a part of the daily routine for any reviewer, it was awesome to catch an respite from said cacophony during my time spent listening and researching Philly based indie group, Good Old War.
Good Old War, who’s name drives from combining the last names of the three members; Keith Goodwin, Tim Arnold, and Dan Schwartz, sounds something akin to a time warp back to the Americana folk sensibilities of the the late 60’s and early 70’s. Their third album, ‘Come Back As Rain.’ is as breezy and melodic as they come, almost reveling in the simplicity of their harmonic vocals and country like melodies. The songwriting and production, as clichéd as this sounds, can be to your ears what a breath of fresh air feels like.
The lead single, Can’t Go Home, rides their vocal harmonies over a rolling acoustic guitar that plants you firmly in their emotive longing for the ’simple truths of being home.’ Amazing Eyes, while keeping to their formula of dancing simple melodic vocal rhythms across acoustic guitar, elicits an entirely different emotive set proving the sophistication of their songwriting and the power in their simplicity.
Pitstop Day Party
405 E. 7th St.
March 16th @ 12am
Official SXSW Showcase
(with Ingrid Michaelson)
The Central Presbyterian Church
200 E. 8th St.