Ok, I'll put it to you straight - I really don't have any interest in American folk. Yeah, Tom Waits is a badass, I like me some Joanna Newsom songs, and I can take the Decemberists as background music. But it just doesn't do anything for me. I absolutely hate acoustic power chord strumming, and your "heartfelt" lyrics aren't going to help any. High school is over, move on already.
Neofolk, and European folk in general, is a totally different story. Not only does it generally stir feelings within me, it also has the spiffy feature of music worth listening to. Sappy teenagers playing "My First Acoustic Song" versus manly renditions of centuries-old Scandinavian melodies? Not a difficult question.
Alright, let's...no, wait. Before I actually start doing the review I'm supposed to, I want you to look at this picture on the right. Look hard. Stare deep into those soft, squinty, slightly feral eyes. Revel in the long curls of his flowing locks.
No, what I want to point out is the gorgeous instrument that B'ee (yes, that's what he goes by) has crafted. Making your own instruments? Hot. Making goddamn beautiful instruments that not only sound fucking great but look cooler than Odin burning churches? Instawin.
This album is fantastic. And yeah, it is from the US. That sounds rather suspect, but somehow B'ee has resisted the banal corruption of Hollywood and channeled his ancestors into the softest folk you've ever heard. Rather than going for the hairy-chested Euro approach, In Gowan Ring is the sound of a young lad, dreaming of being a bard as he plays himself to sleep in grassy meadows. It's so good I had to write such a cliche description, mmhmm.
While some of his other work is pretty lovely, and his other project Birch Book provides more straight-forward folk numbers for the Colonists, Hazel Steps Through a Weathered Home is my favourite of anything B'ee has done. Elegant folk melodies and singing tiptoe quietly between neofolk and psychadelic traditions, making the most peaceful music you could ever want. I spent every day this summer listening to this and watching the shadow of tree leaves on my windowshades.
Verdict: Epic Win [5/5] (I love you)