For Coloradans, the name Covenhoven has become synonymous with intimate and heartfelt yet cinematic and powerful folk music. Over the course of three previous full length albums, Joel Van Horne, the stalwart man behind the timidly convicted voice around which the music of Covenhoven swirls, has unflappably delivered expertly crafted, immersive music which seems to speak directly from his heart into our ears.
Van Horne’s latest full-length effort, IV, stays the moody course for Covenhoven fans, but will no doubt thrill newcomers too. His consistency in delivering emotionally charged heartbreakers through little more than a fireside, baritone murmur is remarkable, yet the 12 track epic (which he co-produced) also carries listeners to the precipice of cinematic crescendos. He paints pictures of preacher’s daughters and river waters with powerful acoustic piano and guitar, climaxing to fully layered choral, orchestral massiveness worthy of cathedrals.
Lyrically, Van Horne delivers greatness in the simplest and seemingly most obvious of ways, imperceptibly connected directly to his muse. On “Monterey,” for example, the inspiration seems to have just rained down on him, making fellow songwriters ask “why didn’t I think of that?” And though the results may seem pure and effortless, the countless hours of work both alone and in collaboration, are clear.
Van Horne is a master of both storytelling and dynamics, but IV shows his progressive side too. “Tall Buildings” is a highlight with a 7/4 pulse, introducing subtle math-rock touches later heard in “Gone With The Wind,” the album’s closer and most rocked-out offering.
“In Cursive” is a true gem, boasting Van Horne’s most beautiful and delicate melody to date. Reaching into chamber pop territory, and revealing a wider vocal range, his falsetto, sheltered by a gorgeous, rich string and piano accompaniment, whisks us above the campfire folk to the glorious heights of sacred spaces.
Compared to his last, understandably saddest full-length record A Kind Of Revelation (written after the passing of his brother), IV is still heavy, but maintains a positive lilt – a fleck of sun glistening on the ripples of Covenhoven’s deep waters. Though it never loses its gravity, IV darts ever forward, and dare we say, that fleck of light reflecting off the darkness is the promise of hope.