Sonny & The Sunsets – Tomorrow Is Alright

January 01, 1970

(Fat Possum)


To some people, Sonny and his cohorts probably sound vaguely
“retro.” They might feel that Sonny Smith’s laid-back, perhaps depressant-induced,
vocals would be a great way to break a bout of insomnia. It’s too bad those
people are so dumb. ‘Cause while Sonny doesn’t always keep a girl on the edge
of her seat, his art is truly unique – and not in the way that would have prompted
his mother to repeat, as she passed his deadbolted bedroom, “Yes, dear, keep on strumming your guitar
and singing about whatever,” feeling this a much better route for her disturbed
son than, say, a rash of serial killing. It does sound like Sonny’s enjoyed
some support – he has no apparent trouble sharing whatever comes to mind. 


The music sounds like what might have happened if Gary
Troxel of The Fleetwoods (the late ‘50s/early ‘60s trio that did “Come Softly”
and “Mr. Blue”) had a secret jones for one of The Shangri-Las. Partying with
the latter, someone – maybe Bill Wilson – slips Troxel some acid and he comes
to, days later, full of songs about hazy experiences: wandering around San
Francisco looking for more “Death Cream” (drugs); receiving some very “Strange
Love”; falling in (unrequited) love with a fellow captive of a bunch of sadistic
Amazons (on another planet); and spending time as a schizophrenic, dogged by
evil voices. A personal favorite scenario is the one in which the narrator
flouts convention (of the teenaged variety, as often happens with Smith),
opting for the bliss of “Lovin’ on an Older Gal.” Everything about it is
delicious: the perfectly-timed vocal exchange with Sunsets member Tahlia Harbour
(also in the band are Kelley Stoltz and Ryan Browne); the rather Young Rascals/Jesse
Colin Young-ish ambience; the tenderness (“Holly, oh, Holly/with your trembling
leaves/the rip in your stocking/the gap in your teeth.”) The mix of more
energetic dissonance into the mellow groove brings the LP to a crescendo – at least as much of one as can be expected
in Sonny’s laconic world


But even that qualifier begs another “but”: “Chapters”
raises some knee-slappin’ hell, and the old-timey chimes of “The Houris” could
fit into a patchwork sewn by Hot Tuna and Holy Modal groupies. Oh, yeah.


DOWNLOAD: “Strange
Love,” “Lovin’ on an Older Gal,” “Chapters,” “Love Among Social Animals”  MARY LEARY


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