Off-Grid Lo-Fi is both the title and description of the recording process of Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer’s third album. Tracked at a secluded wind-and-solar powered cabin on an uninhabited Washington State island in the dead of winter, this set’s 12, roots-rich gems share the organic feel and natural rhythms of the rustic environment that nurtured their creation.
Elements as delicate as the brushed strings of McGraw’s acoustic guitar—chirping like crickets on the time signature-slipping “Mantra”—and as robust as Fer’s rolling thunder of electric guitar on the chugging folk blues song “Deliver My Piece,” come together like interlocking stands in an ecosystem.
The pair’s “back to nature” theme is made explicit on “Eggs for Honey,” on which hive harmonies and roundelay music-box banjo accompany McGraw and Fer singing the praises of two small, sustainable farms embracing the barter system.
Fer’s elastic banjo also drives the slipknot funk-folk of “Magnolia Trees,” where her feathery jazz-inflected vocal dips and glides over McGraw’s plangent, steady strumming.
Fer shreds, but she’s spare. Her grimy electric guitar erupts on a handful of tunes, but Off-Grid Lo-Fi’s true pyrotechnics emerge on the all-acoustic “Trainwreck.” Here, Fer’s acoustic traces a delicate blues madrigal that develops into a heart-pounding gallop complete with percussive flamenco-styled guitar taps. It’s a whirlwind cycle that punctuates and encapsulates McGraw and Fer’s winter’s tale of retreat, reflection, and renewal.
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.