CD Review: Joel Rakes

By Holly Elliott |

Joel Rakes is an American singer-songwriter based out of Delaware. His musical style is influenced by artists like Sufjan Stevens and Iron and Wine, with its folky sound appearing airy and naturalistic. This is why his recent album, released in May 2008, is aptly named A Sudden Change in the Atmosphere.

The album employs a range of musical instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, drums, piano and even banjoes. Lyrically, Rakes’ music is a bit derivative and cliché at times, with his verses featuring common religious themes; however, his conviction in presenting this music feels sincere. Rakes’ originality shows through his unique mixing of rain and nature sounds with his instrumental creations.

Rakes’ musical style stays close to his upbringing. He began playing guitar ten years ago, performing mostly in The Worship of Grace Church in Dover, Delaware. Here he played covers of hymns and praise songs before eventually composing a few of his own. Since his debut release, Rakes has gained some notoriety near the University of Delaware, his college stomping ground. He plays his sets at local venues such as coffeehouses, school functions, and small clubs around the area.

Common themes in his work include devotion, love and the elements of the earth. The music is mostly an unprocessed sound with minimal digital tweaking. This is something Rakes prides himself on, as most of his non-studio recordings have the same quality and consistency. The work for A Sudden Change in the Atmosphere began as an EP, but overtime as the music evolved, Rakes decided he had enough material and enough of a story to create a complete album.

This is Rakes’ first album recorded in a studio, and there is still plenty of room for growth, but it is likely that this down-to-earth musician will stay true to his roots and lifestyle. Currently he is touring in the New England area trying to gain more exposure and expand his fanbase. Rakes’ new album is set to be released in Spring 2009, and judging by some of his influences, his motifs may remain the same but his musical style is certain to undergo more experimentation and growth.

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