The heady atmosphere that Blackbird Revue seeks to conjure on The Whaler & Other Stories is clear: weary seafaring lore and churning storm clouds swept by the currents of time. It's a goal worthy of the Decemberists, and the Blackbird Revue comes close. But not that close. The problem is best illustrated on "The Lion's Mane," a haunting track that suffers from its own grand scale, which obscures the fine detail that marked Jacob Prestidge's earlier work, as in "Autumn in Moscow." Danielle Prestidge, his wife and co-vocalist, has a beautiful voice, but less of the Loreena McKennitt "womyn of the woods" flair would make the track seem a little less affected. Blackbird Revue is better when sticking to what it knows: worn, comfortable Americana and the first-person confessions of "Daniel Johnston's Piano." The sway of "Mother's Radio" has a weathered, easy flow that's as rustic as a chipped porch swing, but the overwrought lyrics undermine the band's simple charm: I took my food from her by umbilical means/As nurses traced my figure on their sonogram machine/She'd give me DNA, a curly head of hair/In the faces of my lovers, I would look to find her face there. Oedipal underpinnings aside, it's a plucky, lovely song with apple-pie-sweet, two-part vocals. Ambition is never a bad thing, but affectation is.