Matt Russell/ Climbing

Russell’s voice wavers on the subdued opening title track not unlike Soul Asylum frontman Dave Pirner did way back in the days of “Runaway Train,” but breathier, with a quality to it that could be called world weariness if the guitar underneath it wasn’t so sweetly toned. A type more Jacob Dylan than Bob, the songs here are minimally arranged and the mood is intimate, and Russell presents himself as intelligent and sensitive without falling into the Bright Eyes/Sufjan Stevens trap of coming off as a grown man trying to sing to 14-year-old girls. A rare feat these days, it seems.

If there’s a quandary with Climbingat all, it’s that Russell’s voice and guitar are so incredibly present. Even when the guest musicians accompany, they’re hardly there. As a result the material can lull the listener into a trance-like state, and before you know it, the record’s over and you stopped paying attention halfway though. If you can avoid that trap, the subtle charm of Russell’s songwriting might win you over.

In A Word: Resting

Grade: B

—by JJ Koczan