Is there an instrument sadder than the cello? I don’t think so. The Portland Cello Project are a collective of Oregon artists, which have included both Thao Nguyen of Thao With The Get Down Stay Down (who created the second best album of 2008) and Justin Power, who makes beautiful indie folk.
I wish I’d heard this 2009 release sooner, because it would have been a best-of-the-year candidate. The The Portland Cello Project kicks off with a painfully sad religious piece, “The Lamb,” by JohnTavener, before bringing in Thao to play one of her greatest songs, “Beat (Health, Life and Fire).” The Thao songs aren’t very differently arranged than the album versions (except for the extraordinary rendition of Tallymarks), but the addition of live cello gives them a little more gravitas. They’re great–and the “cello solo” during Violet is a pretty cool cello equivalent of cock rock.
This was my introduction to the work of Justin Powers, and it definitely made a fan. Oh, and there’s a cover of Pantera’s “Mouth for War” performed by the PCP, and a song by the grossly underrated band, Norfolk and Western. This album gets my highest recommendation.