Although Drake released only three albums before dying in 1974, his well is not dry. Family Tree is a collection of home recordings (as well as "contributions" from family members), revealing a different side to the singer-songwriter. Drake's original releases consist of haunting and contemplative originals, but Tree is two-thirds traditional material and tunes penned by folk icons like Dylan, Jackson C. Frank, and Bert Jansch. Hearing Drake's wistful vocals applied to the jaunty "Cocaine Blues" and the leisurely "Strolling Down the Highway" is a revelation. He sounds almost cheerful -- even on "Blossom," his own composition.
For the bulk of the disc, Drake employs his six-string acoustic plus a little piano. On the bluesy material, the sparse accompaniment tastes as sweet as maple syrup. The sound quality isn't fantastic, but it is very good, with vocals high in the mix and crisp guitar. For those who still need one, the variety of tunes and moods heard on Family Tree makes it a fine introduction to Nick Drake.