By: Nathan Rodriguez
There's something vaguely voyeuristic about Family Tree. It is a 28-track collection of alternate takes, unrefined skeletons and a few diamonds in the rough from an artist that became truly famous only posthumously.
Songs like "Time Piece" may leave some scratching their heads, but you also get the sense that this is the final unearthing and release of Nick Drake's material. The owners of his estate scoured the reel-to-reels for enough slivers of genius to assemble a makeshift album.
The low-fi recordings provide a warm and intimate feel, and there are a handful of songs worth several listens, including an excellent version of Jackson C. Frank's immortal melancholy folk staple "Blues Run the Game" and a spot-on duet with his sister Gabrielle on "All my Trials."
It's a laidback affair, with Drake's amiable, subdued plucking and melodic whispering successfully converting Dylan's "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" into his own creation. There is a fair amount of talking between songs, glasses clattering in the background, which lends a certain "behind the music" feel.
Many tracks here have a certain novelty appeal rather than the substance of his more polished, enduring work. Considering Drake produced only three official albums before his untimely passing in 1974, b-sides and outtakes are few and far between. For that reason alone, this release is worth a listen even if it is hit-or-miss.
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