This collection of music was written and sung by Joel Thibodeau. It is unlike anything you’ve ever heard. People will call it many things. Few will get it right. This is Death Vessel.

Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us exudes a unique ambition wider in scope than most of its peers. The musical reach is fully extended—deep into the past, grounded in the present and nodding to the future. Owing to the gritty avarice of Joel’s singular spirit, voice and musicality, the songs—though rooted in a more traditional feel of folk and early Americana—sound as progressive, experimental and modern as they do antique and old-world. In fact, his hyper-tuneful and wholly spellbinding melodies seem to owe as much to ‘60s pop, rock and jazz as they do to bluegrass, old-time or country. The music is haunting and spiritual, mysterious and kind, ageless and contemporary, soulful and psychedelic. In short, it’s where the requiem meets rock ‘n’ roll.

Joel moved from Boston to Providence in 1998, later spending a few years in Brooklyn around 2004 before settling back down in the outskirts of Providence last year. In the mid-‘90s, Joel and his brother Alec formed String Builder—a musical partnership that would produce several albums (Mortar & From the Curb, String Builder) and a few singles. As that came to an end, Joel began writing songs under the name Death Vessel, working closely with Erik Carlson, whose songwriting input and unique guitar tonality helped shape the band's early sound. Death Vessel’s debut album Stay Close was released in 2005 to critical acclaim.

Nothing Is Precious Enough for Us was recorded with longtime producer/collaborator Pete Donnelly (The Figgs) at his New Jersey studio, and various locales across the northeast with no steady band. Joel himself plays acoustic, electric and steel guitar, as well as drums, harmonica, mandolin, percussion and keyboard parts, inviting a revolving door of friends and players—like professional skateboarder/drummer Chuck Treece, horn player/organist Tim Harbeson, banjoist/guitarist/ukulele player Don Larson (also a former member of String Builder), drummer Freddie Berman, and singers Lisa Corson and Jennifer Black—to fill things out.

But the core and heart of the music belongs to Joel. His latticework foundation of acoustic finger-picking, paired with his unexpectedly high, peaked vocals, alternately keening, carousing and utterly captivating, is more than enough to sustain and propel this record to an otherworldly exuberance. In fact, for the past few years Joel has toured primarily as a solo performer, and the songs are inarguably mesmerizing and relevant in that setting. But on record they take on a new life, thanks to his and Donnelly’s inspired, and often unusual, arrangements. The songs careen from triumphant and rejoicing (“Circa”), to sweet and sparse (“Jitterakadie”), and sometimes affect a sly, cornet-drizzled jazz feel (“The Widening”) or the warm air of banjo-laden campfire songs (“Obadiah in Oblivion,” “Fences Around Field”). Elsewhere, vaguely sinister songs are punctuated and often slashed about by searing electric guitar lines (“Exploded View,” “Peninsula”) and bursts of sound that are as satisfying, and rocking, as they are dire.
 “Now I am versed in silence/my throat hurts, not from yelling but from holding back,” Joel sings on “Block My Eye,” the album’s opening track. And that’s ok, because the music speaks for itself. And nothing ever sounded so loud, and so clear.