Moondoggies – Tidelands

January 01, 1970

 

 

(Hardly Art)

 

www.hardlyart.com

 

Tidelands takes a
gutsy vault up from freshman effort, Don’t
Be a Stranger
.  The same “Shucks,
we’re real guys, wearin’ flannel shirts” ethos prevails, along with burbling
electric and acoustic strums a la Danny Whitten and Robbie Robertson. Caleb
Quick effectively conjures the stained-glass spirit of not-dead Garth Hudson.
When the kindling catches, Moondoggies does a better-than-average job at
getting closer to its Band/CSN/Dead, et al forefathers (next to These United
States, Fleet Foxes, and Backwords, although Backwords merges such influences
with more humor, originality, and quirky poetry). More determinedly purist, Moondoggies
plods through dark woods to wallow in a cool creek. In fact, singer/guitarist/frequent
songsmith Kevin Murphy named this epic after a remote haven near Ketchikan,
Alaska.

 

An exhilarating blast of evocative melody, acoustic/electric
stomp, and warm harmonies, “It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity” is a wise opener. The
track so nearly replicates a Youngbloods/Byrds/Eagles vibe, it’s likely to
inspire a fair amount of head-scratching among the inevitable doobie-sharing
listeners: “WHERE have I heard this before?”

 

The title track throws down the “We’re serious about
Americana/pioneer lore” gauntlet, a quest large enough to hold some of the
group’s strongest… and weakest moments. A bit heavy and drawn-out, it may be
“more for us!” to those who wish they’d been old enough to hammer stakes into soil
around hallowed Dead festivals. “What Took So Long” seems longer than its 5:43
time, along the way spouting some juicy guitar bursts. With Murphy’s sandy lead
vocal, it’s almost equal to the weight.

 

Haunting pedal steel from The Maldives’ Chris Zasche draws
rings around “Uncertain.” A bit more restraint would have been in order: Group
harmonies swell so hard, they seem likely to burst. With a plodding gait, it too
well depicts a burnt-out traveler. Which kind of makes one long for the blessed
economy (and writing) of The Band’s “Rockin’ Chair” and “Unfaithful Servant,”
which portray deep feelings, at a measured speed, without getting anywhere near
tiresome.

 

Still, it’s tempting to deliver hot cornbread and chili to a
group so earnest about depicting a lost or dying world, way of life, and
wilderness. In the basket with these delectables there’s a note, which reads,
“Remember the inspiration of a lovely little number worth the price of the
whole package, ‘Empress of the North;’ the effectively skeletal “A Lot of
People on My Mind,” and the infectious momentum of ‘Lead Me On.’ Don’t be so
intent on showing us you’ve slept in log cabins, dreaming endless dreams of the
Band. Even when the spirit moves – other than during live testimony — ease up
on the heavy harmonies. We know you can create this feeling. Write more songs
showing us what you can do with it –a
whole album of ‘em. The Band was amazing, but somewhere in this territory
there’s still fertile soil to be tilled.”  

 

DOWNLOAD:  “It’s a Shame, It’s a Pity,” “Empress of the
North,” “Lead Me On,” “Can’t Be in the Middle,” “A Lot of People on My Mind” MARY LEARY

 

 

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