The Upshot: If you’re familiar with the psych-country rock of the Beachwood Sparks, you pretty much know what to expect.
BY BARRY ST. VITUS
Nothing gets Brent Rademaker hotter under the collar than having their music endlessly compared to the Byrds and being described as ‘jangly.’ I suppose that it’s easiest to always go for the low-hanging fruit with musical comparisons, but, anyway, these Flying Burrito Brothers/Parson Red Heads/Pure Prairie League/New Riders of the Purple Sage desperados’ will have to just suck up the comparisons, as they are far from the first to mosey down that dusty trail. Oh, I keed, I keed, but, with 3 members on board from the Beachwood Sparks, it points in that direction. What started out as a couple of friends playing some stuff for fun, became a 5-piece collaborative effort that snowballed to include other buds, finally congealing into an actual band and this album. Rademaker invited BS alumni Neal Casal (Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Furthur) and Tom Sanford on board, along with Ben Knight, who plays guitar on one tune. Also in attendance are Kip Boardman (Watson Twins) and Jason Soda (Watson Twins, Everest, and Crazy Horse.) Nelson Bragg from the Brian Wilson Band sits in on a song. Most songs feature 3 guitars plus bass banging away, with occasional, obligatory pedal steel, Hammond and Lowrey organs and slide guitars. Soda, a talented multi-instrumentalist brings a lot to the table in the sessions. (Rademaker later commented, “Nobody was trying to make this happen, it just came into our lives and took over.”) For the cherry on top, feast your peepers on the groovy cover art by William Stout.
If you’re familiar with the psych-country rock of the Beachwood Sparks, you pretty much know what to expect here. I fondly recall my first exposure to them, opening for the Bevis Frond in San Francisco and being blown away, and a solo New Years Eve at home, sitting in the dark, stoned immaculate, and letting their self-titled album wash over me and take me away.
Yes, all the stoner elements are here, California sun and Pacific beaches, starry desert skies and long-haired, brown skinned summer babes, all of the usual things folks around the globe associate with the Golden State. “Sunshine Skyway” pays tribute to Rodemaker’s fond memory of his home state and zooming down to the Keys for a getaway. It’s all a rather familiar vision, viewed through the lens of the Buffalo Springfield, Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Darrow and others who pioneered the sound and glorified So-Cal’s gilded palace of sin and sun with a country spin early on.
There are a handful of songs that grab you immediately, like “Mick Jones,” “California Steamer,” “Out Of My Mind (On Cope and Reed,)” and “Alone,” all undeniably instant classics. Some other numbers were more like creepers, that grew on me after several hearings; “Southern Girl,” “Your Freedom,” “Damsel In Distress,” to point to a few. And, while all of the songs range from good to great, it’s the musicianship that steals the show here, just top-notch playing all the way. So, pull on your old Nudie jacket out of the mothballs, roll yourself a bomber, settle back in your overstuffed chair and enjoy that sweet Pacific surf line wherever you are.
DOWNLOAD: “Out Of My Mind (On Cope and Reed,)” “Mick Jones,” and “Calif. Steamer.”
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