What if Ray Davies had come of age attending a black Baptist church in middle America? Well, he might have made an album like From the Forest to the Sea, the latest from Athens, Ohio’s Southeast Engine on Misra Records. Informed by concept albums like Davies’ Kinks klassic Arthur and shaped by his own less-than-conventional religious upbringing, SEE’s Adam Remnant has concocted the most ambitious, and perhaps the most beautiful, of his band’s four albums. The songs track a spiritual search while skipping stylistically from roots to indie-rock to numbers owing a plain debt to the gospel influences of Remnant’s youth.
Recorded primarily live to analog in a 19th century schoolhouse in rural southern Ohio, Forest/Sea is a warm and intimate sounding record and transfers well to the stage, where only the echoey acoustic piano is missed a bit. The band’s deftness and fervor remains in spades. On disc or in person, Southeast Engine is one of the most capable and inventive bands out there today, and should not be missed in either medium.