"It's electric when you feel the beauty of art. When you get an album that speaks to you the first time through, every song, it makes you excited at the possibility. You wonder what the band was going through when they made the album, or marvel at how awesome they are to have made that album. Or wonder if you're ever capable of matching that output yourself. Very few albums are like that. Most times you have to spin them a bit to get used to everything there.
I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of one of those rare albums though. Back City Woods is releasing their album "The Light. The Dark. The Dusk." tomorrow. But I'm telling you today it's pretty incredible.
So there is a progression in these songs, starting with the first song "Visions." It is bright, hopeful, excellently arranged, with some achingly plaintive fiddling by Sean Zaragoza. This is the beginning of "The Light" portion of the album. Upbeat, tactful drums by James Lengel highlight songs like "Big Dreams (Small Towns)." And "Better Off" is perhaps the best showcase of the energetic musicality these guys throw down.
And then somewhere around track five this album shifts gears. Once you hear the nasty opening guitar riff of "Down The River," you know you have entered "The Dark." In this section Daniel NeSmith's songwriting skills really shine. In "Alone" he has perfectly captured the ennui and the strange here/not here we have all felt in relationships over the years. Masterful. "Love Like A .45" is just fun -- I bet James had a blast recording that crazy, quirky percussion, and Cal Mathis has some great choppy guitar riffs on this one. I'm a sucker for meaty, chunky guitar. "My Last Stand" is the perfect companion to this song in terms of the power of the music, driving some powerful melodies. It also features some great guitar work by Travis Bryant and Daniel's mad-scientist banjo.
But then you hit the last third of the album, and these songs are in a beautiful nowhere-vertigo-everywhere-transcendental zone that is "The Dusk" you see after a southern sunset. My personal favorite of the entire album is "Boy My Age" -- this is a wistful and well-done song. The lyrics, harmonies, the atmosphere of the whole band coming together. You also have to thank PJ Warren, who recorded this album, for expertly catching nuance like this.
And where would a good record be without the low-end? Listen to "Wait Too Long" and you'll hear why Danny Davis is a funk-doobiest rhythm slayer you'll want on your side if you ever get into a bar fight with some street toughs with basses. And that interlude on "Buried In The Past?!" Dude.
Daniel sings on that song "can't live now, buried in the past." It's so true, and it sums up this album. Back City Woods really defies the descriptions and labels of old. They're not rock, they're not country, they're not bluegrass. They're just bad-ass southern music, expertly done. Every song is a tapestry densely woven with great skill.
And what's buried in the past? I grew up with some of these guys. We lived in the same neighborhood for a while. We ran the streets, sneaking cigarettes in the woods. Writing songs and dreaming dreams. It's a time I hope we all look back on with fondness. I feel pride in seeing that my friends grew into wonderful, soulful musicians whose dream came true.
This album is here now, looking back and pushing forward. Wait for the light as you brave the dark. And if you're lucky you'll get a few cool evenings of fireflies in the breeze, some time to bask in the dusk.
Buy this album. It's beautiful."
- Michael Walenceus