Folksinger Richard Shindell has been making records since 1992, Lucy Kaplansky almost as long, and that entire time they have shared harmonies on each others' albums. Except for a sublime, one-off with Dar Williams ("Cry, Cry, Cry"), "Tomorrow You're Going" marks their first foray across an entire release.
The Pine Hill Project isn't going to attract the clamor a new album from Emmylou and Rodney Crowell will, but it is every bit as attractive musically and vocally. Both obviously gifted songwriters, here the duo perhaps explored dusty crates to find songs ideal for their understated and satisfying blend of contemporary folk music.
With producer Larry Campbell at the helm (and playing various guitars throughout), the album very much has a rootsy, grounded vibe despite disparate source material. Songs range from '60s country (Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison's heartache inducing "Making Plans" gives the album its title) to "Sweetest Thing" from U2 and Elizabeth & the Catapult's stunning Laura Nyro-esque "Open Book." Noteworthy songs also come from contemporaries including Dave Carter ("Farewell to Saint Dolores"), Gillian Welch ("Wichita"), Greg Brown ("Lately") and David Halley ("Rain Just Falls" and previously recorded by Jimmie Dale Gilmore.)
Given the participants' experience, it is no surprise the lead and harmony vocals are absolutely spot-on across the board. Nick Lowe and Paul Carrack's "I Live On A Battlefield" serves as just one example. Shindell takes the lead, but Kaplansky does more than sweeten the song: her voice serves as a counterpoint to the protagonist's restricted perspective, while Campbell and bassist Byron Isaacs add further vocal gravity.
"Tomorrow You're Going" is an album best appreciated by those willing to invest time in active listening; certain to set ideal ambiance for no end of social situations, when one delves into the instrumental fabric of the album, values the vocal complexity, and considers the lyrical heft of the compositions, the recherché of this wonderful pairing becomes apparent.