Moore, SC resident Neil Lee Griffin says he wants to “unapologetically create my own world with sound to paint a picture in the listener’s mind” and with his formidable musical endeavor, “Tanglewylde”, he does just that. Calling himself the “Scarecrow of the Upstate”, Griffin is a man on a mission: raising awareness of stuttering through his music. Neil has struggled with a stutter and the derision of being misunderstood but has found freedom in both music and singing, which breaks the bonds of the speech disorder. His scarecrow character symbolizes a mute, but knowing legendary figure and is also a major component of the concept behind “Tanglewylde”, which functions as a potential musical companion piece to a possible future movie/TV score or stage play.
While there are a large cast of voice talents employed, both for speaking and singing parts, this is basically Griffin’s show, musically. At times folky and country and at other times using a modern acoustic rock sound, all of the instruments were played by Neil himself. This includes a huge array of orchestral instrumentation, most notably violins, cellos, harps and flutes for a classical direction on many tracks. The album alternates over 22 tracks between atmospheric storyline-driven and voice acted tracks and more conventional songs that complete the linear theme. Griffin claims influence from soundtrack creators like Danny Elfman, and the whole album echoes the emphasis on gothic folklore of his works, especially the “Nightmare Before Christmas” score. Listening to “Tanglewylde” reminded me of a youth spent devouring the soundtrack to the animated film, “The Hobbit”, so I tested the waters by gauging my 5-year old daughter’s reactions to this new fantastic story. Sure enough, she was enthralled for the whole journey. It would be safe to say that while you might not being cranking “Tanglewylde” at a stoplight in your car, you can definitely find something to share at home with your kids here (I do offer the caveat that there is some very slight innuendo in one of the later songs, which I skipped for her benefit).
For the most part, it is a spooky and atmospheric story, delivered with impressive musicianship by Mr. Griffin. At times ambient with great ethereal vocals also supplied by Leah Nycole Edwards and Jessica Reinicke, the more rock-like songs evoke ‘90s alternative bands like Days of the New to these ears. The whole feel of the work, with its emphasis on fantasy and fairy-tales brings to mind current “mythpunk” singer S.J. Tucker. Modern beats sit side by side with epic neo-classical passages and there are even some moments where the nursery-rhyme cadences used bridge a gap with contemporary hip hop. Haunted keys and strings make this perfect background music for a Halloween party.
Ultimately, Neil Lee Griffin has created quite an impressive musical adventure. I was blown away that in an album with this much going on musically, so much of it sprung from the mind and hands of one person. With the story of “Tanglewylde”, he has let his voice be heard and everyone should take notice.
Recommended if you like: Danny Elfman, Days of the New, S.J. Tucker
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.