Gregory Alan Isakov: “If I Go, I’m Goin'”

With experimental bands like Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors making many a top-albums-of-the-year list these days, and the new indie electronica scene—rising up like a hot air balloon fueled by heat generated by footloose fans—impressing even former techno-phobes like me, 2009 ostensibly could have been a year showing a trend away from the acoustic arena. But, as Shakespeare once said, all that glitters is not gold, and oftentimes all I want to hear is some good, old-fashioned, no-frills folk. Nothing distorted. Nothing flashy. Nothing synthesized. Traditional, even. Enter Gregory Alan Isakov.

A Colorado resident for the past ten years, Isakov was born in South Africa and raised in Philly. While his third record, This Empty Northern Hemisphere, doesn’t break any boundaries or forge unknown territory, it’s a solid effort that proves it’s not always necessary to recreate the wheel. Drawing on Stephen Fretwell-esque vocals, it’s like he’s reached ghost hands through my northleftern ribs and put a death grip on my heart. In a good way. Isakov’s lyrics, replete with themes of love lost, loneliness, and isolation, often incur the famous Frost refrain: “Nothing gold can stay.” But you know what can? Simply kick-ass songwriting skills. When I found out I missed his show at Café du Nord on December 2, it was like discovering that there is no Santa (and my innocence sailed into the ether). Unlike my faith in Old Saint Nick, however, he might come back.

Gregory Alan Isakov – If I Go, I’m Goin’

Who: Gregory Alan Isakov

What: This Empty Northern Hemisphere

When: 5.1.2009

Where: Boulder, Colorado

Why: “If I go, I’m goin’ shameless / Let my hunger take me there.”

How: self-released

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