The Hickories — Lost in Pennsylvania (CD Review)

The Hickories - Lost in Pennsylvania
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The Hickories
Lost in Pennsylvania
Rating: 7 (out of 10)
Independent Release | 2005

The songs of The Hickories are stones cast into water with the twitch of a wrist. Not to flutter and oscillate, settling gently to the bottom, but in a direct veering motion with the intent of striking bottom: the soul, the mind, the heart.

Music normally complies with its easily attainable goal of serving as a diversion, a corollary event seeking not to interfere with serpentine traffic navigation or the pursuit of exercise and fitness as it streams from iPod lobes. The Hickories planted both my heels in the pavement, the depths to which their music reached. Instinctively, I rifled through the abscesses of memory to pair mind to music, the scoring of prior events that rush to the cortex when goaded by instrument.

Lost in Pennsylvania, their all-encompassing album, couples both the superfluous and the profound. Containing songs of both deep-reaching magnitude and enjoyment bordering on whimsy, the mixture is a striking delivery of their body of work. Being a newly formed and evolving band, not all of their music attains a uniform exceptional quality, but The Hickories succeed through the delivery of music that utilizes the depth and range of their collective voices. Vocalists Michelle Volpe and Meghan Sharp intertwine their contrasting pitches in a manner too relaxed to appear orchestrated, yet impressive in its simplicity and meaning, the snaking handshake of two kite ribbons in a blustery sky. The cumulative voice of The Hickories melts around the instrumental support, which recognizes the mastery of the vocal qualities of the band and supports the effort in a subordinate role. The accompaniment serves as a steering mechanism that allows the vocals to ebb, stray, and wind, while always returning to conclude in a manner befitting the musical subject, be it serious or lighthearted. Continue reading →

Separation Anxiety

Andrew Bird live at Black Cat — Nov. 17, 2005 >>

Andre Bird live photo
photo by Ellen Tunney

“…my uniform steps delivered a distinct click as they slapped the hardwood floor. Contemplatively pausing at the masterpiece, I was overwhelmed by the layering of the components, resulting in a statement of woven complexities. I offered intent focus to where my attention was innately drawn, at the expense of the nebulous stream of individuals shuffling onward over my shoulder…”

Smithsonian exhibit description? Hardly.

Andrew Bird delivers music of substance. Polished, intricate tomes draw upon their predecessors and antecedents, to capture a chronological flow mirroring a scrutinized view of a piece of art, starting, taking it all in, concluding, and delivering a cumulative emotive response. Bolstering the cohesive musical swirl are the lyrical underpinnings that lack any repetitive nature, but serve as a welcome accessory, exhibiting the same crafted harmony as the accompanying sound. ‚ÄúA Nervous Tick Motion of the Head to the Left‚Äù, from The Mysterious Production of Eggs delivers fulfillment as it presents musical range and capability in all facets, to be reviewed subjectively and accepted or cast off. Continue reading →

Musical Eighteen Wheeler

Immortal Lee County Killers III live at Iota Club & Cafe

One quarter cup of black coffee, crusts from two pieces of wheat toast, the remnants of a poached egg.

Possessing the languid gait and nonchalance of three truck drivers exiting a diner in the morning, about to embark on their haul, the Immortal Lee County Killers III approached the IOTA stage. Contrary to their languid appearance, once they flicked the key to start the engine, the ILCK3 crafted an intently driven bombastic dirge encompassing a myriad of musical genres.

ILCK3 photoThe combination of Mr. Toko Chanel’s billowing, thrusting drum beats, John Wesley Meyer’s stream-of-consciousness organ, and Chet Weise’s successful attempt on guitar to enmesh the competing musical elements, together led the audience on a band professed creed that bordered on fevered rampage. The musical pace surpassed the accompanying lyrics, with a measured rhythmical assurance that if you were to focus on the content and message of the music, you’d be bowled over by the impending guitar pulse.

The breakneck pace of performance did not restrict the ILCK3 to a defined range of frenetic music. The deviation between song styles was extreme, and included stripped-down blues, wistful country monologue, and aggressive rock-and-roll. The climax of the performance was a separation between the beginning and ending maelstroms. The striking clarity produced by a gospel melody, sung without microphone by Toko Chanel, which hushed the IOTA crowd and transformed the bar-brick walls to mind‚Äôs eye stained glass, cradling the pulpit of a stage. Post-gospel performance the ILCK3 returned to their workmanlike approach of scratching guitars and sharp percussion reminiscent of hailstones striking the hood of their musical eighteen-wheeler. Continue reading →