Patrick Dethlefs wasn’t alone on his last record. He had other musicians playing with him, but more as a subtle accompaniment versus a whole-band sound. No longer is that the case. On his latest offering Beauty in the Unknown, Dethlefs and his compatriots — Jeff Rady on pedal steel and 12-string guitar, Blake Stephan on bass and David Barnes on drums — give a fully rounded picture of the singer/songwriter’s work. The inclusion of the full group offers some meaty and exploratory territory that Dethlefs hasn’t tackled on his own in the past. Simply put, Beauty in the Unknown is Dethlefs’ Cold Roses.
“In The Wood” starts the album with a beautiful, sweet, but pretty straightforward Americana tone. The second track “In The Morning” — which really sounds like a lost Whiskeytown song — starts off similarly, but midway through, Dethlefs and the group launch into a massive crescendo that grows and grows as they blaze into blissful pedal steel psychedelic territory. The band goes back to a softer Americana on the cautionary life advice message of “I Was Your Age,” and on the following tracks “Let Go and Lie Down” and “Had I Known,” the accompaniment is more subdued but it doesn’t leave Dethlefs out on his own with his acoustic guitar. The dichotomy of Dethlefs’ quiet playing and the understated accompaniment together combine to make the songs rich and full. The six-song album wraps up with “Of Everything” a track that blends both the subtle textures and slightly louder moments with a radio-friendly, poppy undercurrent, as it beautifully discusses one of the album’s reoccurring themes — letting go.