Man, it would be good to live in the world these guys sing about. It’s one where you can watch “painted sunsets” while “listening to cicadas” and drinking “bourbon on the rocks”, while a mystic legend who is “half apache, half God-knows-what” walks the earth always with “liquor in his gut”. And all the while, as you “catch some rays”, everything is cloaked in shimmering, sparkling tones of early psychedelia.
In just six songs, this Denver-based quartet of musicians (which swells to a sextet in some songs) from various parts of the US send us to a sun-kissed paradise (even the storm in ‘Blue Hurricane’ sounds blissful) which probably didn’t even exist when the Byrds were turn, turn, turning. Because they sound like they are products of the original Summer of Love, when Roger McGuinn and Co were layering swirling guitar solos on top of each other and singing in such close harmony that they may have well been conjoined.
And the subject matter is less offensive than a springtime sea breeze. Which may sound like damning with faint praise, but it is meant with the best intentions. Sometimes you need music that is happy. Or at least on the brighter side of melancholic. The sentiments and melodies are sung with such conviction – with, it needs to be said, some decent songwriting that lifts the band way beyond mere pastiche – that you are swept up in the paisley goodness.
And it is encouraging that the idealistic depictions of wandering the land, marveling at natural wonder in awe at life in general are not just for show – a quick scan of the band’s Facebook page reveals that they have convictions, with news of demonstrations defending Native Americans’ land and water rights interspersed with the more orthodox concert announcements and revelations that they are listening to ZZ Top’s classic ‘Tres Hombres’. Anyway, back to the music. The lead song and the centrepiece to this EP , ‘Mystic Legend’ got Agitated Records interested, which led to a brightly coloured vinyl release – and it is easy to see why. It begins with an up-front, high-treble guitar that sounds somewhere between the Shadows, Creedence and Randy California. And if you don’t know who any of those cats are or were kids, then get googling.
‘Blue Hurricane’ is first up and it is an odd choice for an opener, with its laconic country rock telling the story of a storm, metaphoric or otherwise. ‘Low Country’ follows and it is a classic late afternoon relaxation song – it’s the one with cicadas, sunset and bourbon – and it reminded me of Doug Sahm’s ‘Groover’s Paradise’, the early 70s album that was part-love letter to sultry Texan nights.
The one song that doesn’t quite work is ‘Pale Highway’, which follows ‘Mystic Legend’. Musically it veers a little too closely to that horrendous country rock band that The Dude from the Big Lebowski expressed his dislike of in no uncertain terms. It begins with an E. Large bird of prey: you know the one. ‘Sunshine Healing’ gets things back on track with the return of the shimmering guitar. It is a short yet perfectly formed piece of pop imploring the listener to solve their worries by lying in the sun. It seems like sound advice.
‘Travelin’ Spirit’ is the album’s highlight and sounds like a late-60s British invasion band immediately after they discover that there are substances more mind-altering than tea with two sugars. The gorgeous close harmonies and scratchy guitar are more retro than Bakelite, yet it doesn’t sound hoary – rather it sounds upbeat and airy.
If these six songs are anything to go on, this band will be worth keeping an eye on. In the meantime we can only dream of living in their colourful, sunny world.