The members of stark folk duo You+Me — pop superstar P!nk and Dallas Green from dusty roots rockers City and Colour — might seem like a mismatch. However, the pair has quite a bit of musical history: P!nk joined City and Colour on stage as far back as 2011 — dueting on the band’s “What Makes a Man” — and returned the favor by having them open several dates of her 2013 tour. Earlier this year, Green performed a live version of P!nk’s “Try,” stripping the desperate song down to just sparse solo guitar.
On You+Me’s debut, Rose Ave., the duo fulfill the promise of this mutual admiration society. Musically, the record largely takes its cues from City and Colour’s autumnal instrumentation and spacious arrangements; its intimate songs are dominated by acoustic riffs, ghostly pedal steel curves and whispery percussion. (Notable exceptions to these somber notes include “Break the Cycle” — a forceful string-driven song about letting go of baggage — and the bluesy “Love Gone Wrong” with its swinging bar-band piano.)
Wisely, these spartan arrangements leave plenty of room for Rose Ave.‘s focal point: Green and P!nk’s vocal interplay. The latter’s always been an underrated singer who adds welcome grit to pop music; in the context of You+Me, she harnesses her soulful, gravelly contralto to match Green’s vulnerability. The results make Rose Ave. something special: Whether singing in unison — with Green trailing P!nk’s melodies like a shadow — or humbly alternating verses to further a storyline (as on “Second Guess”), the pair make simple songs about heartbreak, finding comfort in others and forgiveness sound alternately gut-wrenching and life-affirming.