High Places – 03/07 – 09/07 (Review) & Upcoming Show

The High Places’ first release on Thrill Jockey is a collection of singles and hard-to-find tracks leading up to their signing. This release stands as an introduction to the collaboration of Robert Barber and Mary Pearson. Barber provides a babbling brook of cut-and-paste drum circle riddims propelling the paper boats of Pearson’s innocent iko-ikoish jumprope chants. Daycare psychedelica for the Thomas the Tank Engine set, if you will.

At times the at once atmospheric and Caribbean feel of the songs reminds me of my favorite parts of Adventures in the Ultraworld by the Orb.

The cover art used in this release is exactly the same as the band’s 2007 High Places EP 7″ (only 300 made) on Ancient Almanac that earned an impressive 8.2 at Pitchfork. All four songs from that EP are represented here along with some harder to find tracks including “Jump In” which was a song commissioned for an elementary school music program. It seems to me that this band isn’t entirely inappropriate to play for the little ones, in fact, and certainly a bit more interesting that some of the kid fodder dolled out today.

The band is currently on tour gearing up for their self-titled release on 9/23. You can hear two songs– “Golden” and “From Stardust to Sentience” from that release if you visit the band’s MySpace page. They also have some downloads available, too.They will be stopping in Grinnell College at Bob’s Underground Cafe on Thursday, 9/25 and at The Mill in Iowa City on Friday, 9/26 where they will be with Ponytail and Wet Hair.

Sep 6 2008 8:00P
FREE! East Village Radio Music Festival at South St. Seaport New York, New York
Sep 11 2008 8:00P
Le Poisson Rouge w/ Crystal Slits, Breathe Owl Breathe, Deastro New York, New York
Sep 16 2008 9:00P
Brillobox Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Sep 17 2008 8:00P
Grog Shop Cleveland, Ohio
Sep 18 2008 8:00P
The DAAC Grand Rapids, Michigan
Sep 19 2008 8:00P
Forward Festival w/ Dan Deacon Madison, Wisconsin
Sep 20 2008 8:00P
Pygmalion Fest @ Krannert Center w/ Yo La Tengo Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
Sep 23 2008 8:00P
Record Release Show at AV-aerie Chicago, Illinois
Sep 24 2008 8:00P
Triple Rock Social Club Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sep 25 2008 8:00P
Grinnell College w/ Ponytail, Wet Hair Grinnell, Iowa
Sep 26 2008 8:00P
The Mill w/ Ponytail, Wet Hair, Peaking Lights Iowa City, Iowa
Sep 27 2008 8:00P
Rhinoceropolis w/ Ponytail Denver, Colorado
Sep 29 2008 8:00P
Kilby Court w/ Ponytail Salt Lake City, Utah
Sep 30 2008 8:00P
Badlander w/ Ponytail Missoula, Montana
Oct 2 2008 8:00P
Nectar w/ Ponytail Seattle, Washington
Oct 3 2008 8:00P
Department of Safety Anacortes, Washington
Oct 4 2008 8:00P
Richards on Richards w/ Ponytail Vancouver, British Columbia
Oct 6 2008 8:00P
Backspace w/ Ponytail Portland, Oregon
Oct 8 2008 8:00P
Bottom of the Hill w/ Ponytail San Francisco, California
Oct 10 2008 8:00P
The Smell w/ Ponytail Los Angeles, California
Oct 12 2008 8:00P
Modified Arts w/ Ponytail Phoenix, Arizona
Oct 15 2008 8:00P
Emo’s Austin, Texas

Listen to Head Spins

High Places MySpace Page

High Places Blog

Umphrey’s McGee – Live At The Murat (Review)

Live at the Murat ArtworkThis is the longest I have taken to write a review of an album. I received the promo for Umphrey’s McGee’s newest live album Live At The Murat back in October of 2007. Unfortunately, at the time I received the promo I didn’t feel I was informed enough about the band to give this album a fair review so I “lived” with it for a while.

I was fairly familiar with the band, and liked parts of The Bottom Half, which was their last studio release (also released in 2007). The Bottom Half was the remains of the studio work from the previous 2006 release Safety in Numbers. As a result, I was pretty interested to hear this release, but was immediately overwhelmed by it in that I realized that the release didn’t have many songs from either of the last two releases so I wasn’t familiar with the songs.

In my review of Keller Williams’s album Dream, which was also on SCIFidelity, I told a story of my first Phish concert. This was the tour supporting Farmhousein 2000 and by then, Phish had already been together for seven albums. I hung with Phish until shortly after the hiatus before the subsequent breakup in 2004. During the time I was a fan I had a lot of catching up to do with Phish. While Farmhouse was regarded as Phish’s most accessible album, the albums to date were generally not as nearly as accessible and usually based on some amount of fleshing out of the material on tour. So, the previous releases had their own established history with the fans and the live shows. As a music fan who loves to dig in with a band– it really was a very daunting idea to do this with Phish. You had the officially released catalog as well as all of the taped shows and the volumes of information and statistics that were kind of a hold over from the Grateful Dead’s fanbase. I jumped in with both feet and even bought all of the LivePhish releases with the costume Halloween shows as well as the official releases. After the Hiatus, and the release of Round Roomin 2002, I kind of fell out of the collecting mode with Phish and I really even became sort of tired of listening to their stuff. I eventually sold off the LivePhishseries as well as some of the promos and other items I had. I still have the studio releases which are really allI feel I need. I didn’t follow the solo careers of the members after the first two Trey Anastasio albums and the Vida Blue release from Page McConnell.

And, so it is with Umphrey’s to an extent. Like Phish, Umphrey’s is a band with history of a growing and fervent fanbase. 2007 is nine years after their formation, and Live at the Murat is an attempt by the band to capture where they are these days with their live show. It is their first official live release since Local Band Does Oklahoma in 2003 and one the band spent time preparing for. While the album itself is based on two nights at the Murat Egyptian Room in Indianapolis, the show had some prepwork done ahead of time to plan some of the performance.

The album itself is a collection of new material, some of the planned “interludes” as well as some “fan favorites.” Since I got this album, I have had the opportunity to download some other shows to kind of catch up on what Umphrey’s shows are like. Like Phish and the Grateful Dead before them, a live show from Umphrey’s McGee while largely improvisational has a meticulously planned setlist with a focus on not repeating themselves. While this is great and guarantees that a fan gets a different show every time, this makes comparing a live album against any given show sort of pointless (unless you want to get down to discussing different dates of “In The Kitchen” which I’m not interested in doing).

In my opinion, the first five tracks on Disc One set the bar pretty high for the album with one of the strongest sequences of material I’ve heard in a while. There is a reason that “In The Kitchen” is one of the fan favorites and we get a cool transition of an acoustic version which after a couple of improv segments turns into an electric version. Very nice and I listen to this part of the album the most when I return to it. I really like the dramatic piano at the end of “Electric Improvisation” and the chord change that leads back into the reprise of “In The Kitchen.” This is followed with the only song on a studio release in two years, “Higgins” from The Bottom Half. I would have expected to hear more material from the last two albums as this is what most bands do with their live albums. This makes the album essential in the catalog since it provides many unreleased tracks.

I listen to my fair share of music in the course of a week and between my CD player and my iPod I always have something playing. I have found that Live at the Murat really stands up to repeated listenings for me. To that end, I might even recommend this album to anyone who was interested in hearing the band for the first time. It shows off the band’s astounding live chops as well as their ability to craft a song. One thing that this band has going for it for me is that their influences draw from some progressive bands that I listen to. The Wikipedia article on Umphrey’s lists Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis as well as bands like the Police. I have pretty extensive King Crimson and Pink Floyd collections and I picked these influences out right away. One track that took me by surpise is “The Triple Wide” which is a dancey, electronic instrument propelled partially by an 808 beat carrying a buzzy synth line to a dual with guitar at the 4-minute mark.

Since last year I’ve been following the very excellent and recommended Podcast. In addition to the selected live shows provided we get to hear the very laid back sense of humor that seems to contrary to the virtuosity of their performance. We are provided with their sense of humor on this album as well even without stage banter. The band gave the audience some chanted cues which show up in the recording. One notable one is the “This album sucks!!” that closes out disc one. We also get some “FUCK YEAHs” during the great Fripp Guitar Craft-alike “Angular Momentum.” We get the requisite stoner humor in “The Fuzz” (“There goes my BOOOONNNG!”), bathroom humor in “40’s Theme” with the warning “Tomorrow you’ll be on the shitter.”

Of course, this isn’t really what Umphrey’s McGee is about at the end of the day. Umphrey’s is ultimately a band who is all about the music and really about bringing great shows to the fans and Live at The Murat is a great portrait of the band in it’s element. The twin-guitar attack of Umphrey’s provides a well-adapted and flexible tone surface. The band likes to stretch out in searing guitar solos and soaring anthemic building bridges. While I’m not part of the regular in-the-know fanbase, yet, at the end of the album I find myself looking forward to seeing a show.

Visit the Murat Mini-Site for streaming tracks.

IT’S STAR TIME! – The Diplomats of Solid Sound Featuring the Diplomettes at 3rd Street Live 1-26-08

The Diplomettes

“It’s Star Time!!!” Doug announced to the Saturday night crowd at 3rd Street Live after a quick instrumental set of songs from The Diplomats of Solid Sound. “It’s Star Time!!” he repeated and introduced the lovely ladies of The Diplomettes who were greeted by enthusiastic cheering and clapping.

The announcement style is a tribute to the emcee Danny Ray who used to exclaim “Star Time!” before James Brown hit the stage. It’s with this knowing wink that The Diplomats of Solid Sound pays homage to the work of soul greats like James Brown who is arguably the architect of the music that influences them. The B3-fueled sound of The Diplomats draws equally from the Stax houseband Booker T and the MG’s and Brown’s band the JB’s.

Nate Basinger on the keys

The band seems very comfortable in the role of backing band to the three vocalists of the Diplomettes. Prior to July 2006 when the girls joined the group, The Diplomats of Solid Sound were largely an instrumental act with three albums under their belt; two of which on independent label Estrus Records. They were enjoying a modicum of popularity mostly in the EU where they had been doing touring and by the finicky tastes of TV producers needing a juicy instrumental vamp for some scene on VH1 and MTV’s regular diet of reality shows. In a similar fashion to Booker T and the MG’s each of the members of the band are noted regional sessionmen performing on most of the noted Eastern Iowa recordings in the last ten years.

Jim Viner and Doug Roberson from the Diplomats of Solid Sound

I guess the last time I saw the Diplomats was March of 2006 at Martini’s. I’ve seen the guys since then– Nate and Jim at the two Bo Ramsey shows and Doug a couple of times at the Picador. There always seemed to be something conflicting with convenient shows. As such, I hadn’t seen any performances with the Diplomettes other than catching some clips on YouTube.

Back then, the Diplomat shows were pretty much low-key affairs. The band pulling out chestnuts from Booker T and the MG’s as well as Blue Note acts and the occasional surf tune in addition to their own material. A great band to kick back and listen to while drinking and hanging with friends. The 2008 version of the band delivers a completely different show.

In fact, the show Saturday night was almost more of a revue in the classic ’60’s sense focusing on showmanship. The focus of the show was the Diplomettes who brought a vintage girl group sensibilityto the act. Each of the three ladies provided lead vocal turns while the other two provided harmonies; sometimes singing in a three-part harmony. I could hear similarities to Motown acts like the Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas, but also Southern Soul/Stax styles, or a Phil Spector girl group influence. At times the vocals seemed to have a 40’s Andrews Sisters feel (at least in the three-part harmonies). Visually, the Diplomettes are stunning– color coordinated dresses and choreography all add to the appeal. I particularly like the palms-out and drop done to “Lights Out.”


I was fairly familiar with a lot the songs as I’d been listening to them streaming from the Diplomettes MySpace page— it seemed like the crowd was as well. Original songs like “Hurt Me So” and “Come In My Kitchen” are certainly crowd pleasers. One cover that took me by surprise was the “We’re Doin’ It (Thang) (pt. 2)” by Eddie Bo and the Soulfinders! I’m familiar with this song due to its inclusion in the DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist Brainfreeze all-45’s mix. Very nice choice. I guess these shows are also an education in rare R&B!

The crowd Saturday night was great– lots of folks up dancing of all ages. My wife had a great time and we are talking about going to see them again in February– possibly in Dubuque or in Iowa City.

Go see them if you get a chance!

Here is my flickr.com photoset of the show with more pictures.

The Diplomats of Solid Sound Website

The Diplomats of Solid Sound MySpace Page with songs

The Diplomettes MySpace Page with songs

The Diplomats of Solid Sound Featuring the Diplomettes on Facebook

The Devil Makes Three – self titled LP (Review)

Devil Makes Three on the TT

There is something right about The Devil Makes Three‘s reissue of their 2002 eponymous debut’s availability on vinyl LP.

The Devil Makes Three is a trio from San Francisco who plays music in a style that is largely influenced by folk but draws additional color and rhythm from 20’s and 30’s blues and bluegrass as well as drawing from a punk ethos. What does this mean? If you like the Violent Femmes first record or bands like 16 Horsepower, The Squirrel Nut Zippers, and possibly The Gun Club this band is for you. The headstones of death, drinking and disappointment carved with vocals, acoustic guitars, and stand-up bass.

Which is why I say that The Devil Makes Three’s record is fittingly on vinyl in addition to it’s future-shock CD and digital download versions. I can’t think of a better way to join Pete Bernhard in “Old Number Seven” than to knock a couple of fingers back of the song’s tribute neat while their 180g record spins in the background!

As a side note, the first time I heard “Old Number Seven” its scrubby 1-2 strumming reminded of the Pixies “Mr. Grieves.” Reading the press bio they do cite the Pixies as an influence.

The record was originally released in 2002 by Snazzy Productions, which apparently still carries the original version as well as the band’s 2004 effort Longjohns, Boots, and a Belt and their 2006 live album A Little Bit Faster And A Little Bit Worse. These last two are also carried by CDBaby who has Pete Bernhard’s solo CD Things I Left Behind, too. When Milan Records signed the band they started with their first release and appended four bonus tracks of live and demo tracks from 2002 and 2003. It was a good choice to reissue this album– all of the tracks are well-written and performed by the band and the lyrics are impressive. Pete’s lyrics paint the perfect picture– one track I particularly like is “Graveyard.”

“Well that’s Me / Just a’leanin on my shovel / In this graveyard of dreams”

The thing that gets me about this line is how completely it describes the situation. Not only is the narrator living in a graveyard of dreams– he’s actually digging the holes in which his dreams lie!

The vinyl release of The Devil Makes Three is a single jacket with new album artwork that is done with old engravings which suits the period-feel of the music contained within. The front cover is pretty simple and the back cover has the full lyrics printed for the ten original songs– not the bonus cuts. I don’t have the original release to compare the album art or the remastering, however the record sounds fantastic on my turntable. I suspect, however, that because they advertise the album as “Digitally Remastered” that they did that first and then mastered the vinyl. I would have prefered that they would have done a separate mastering of the vinyl from the original tapes. It could be the case that the original work was recorded digitally, I suppose. The remastering was handled by Christian Dwiggins at The Engine Room.

I have a mid-line Gemini turntable with an Audio Technica cartridge playing through a five-year-old Sony AV receiver and Polk Audio S-10’s that are coming up on 12 years old. My setup is purely functional. Still, it sounds great to my ears. I enjoy listening to vinyl because it forces me to deliberately sit down and listen to the music, and this album stands up to a beginning-to-end listening.

Listen or Download a full version of “Old No. 7”

Listen to other mp3 samples of tracks at the Milan Records Page.

Visit The Devil Makes Three’s MySpace Page to hear other tracks.

2005 Fender American Stratocaster Hard Tail (review)

2005 Strat HardTail A couple of weekends ago I was out to lunch with my friend Erik and decided to visit the Cedar Rapids Music-Go-Round to see if they had anything interesting in stock. Over lunch we were discussing the amazing finds that he and our friend Andrew had in that store.

Admittedly Music-Go-Round can be pretty hit-and-miss when it comes to really great finds at a good price. Quite a bit of their stock caters to the beginner or low-budget musicians– the guy who really wants a Gibson Les Paul, but only has the funds for the LTD version of it (a good version for the price, BTW). When we got there they had quite a few Fenders hanging on the wall– a couple of Mexicans– but they had two American Stratocasters as well. One was a 2001 Hot Rod Red with tremolo and rosewood fretboard and the other was the 2005 black and white Hard Tail with maple neck that I ended up purchasing.

The salesman plugged me into a used Fender Blues Junior Combo Amp to try the guitars out. A good choice as the Blues Jr is partially tube and would be fairly well-matched to the classic Strat sound. After playing both guitars and conferring with Erik and calling Andrew on his cell I settled on the Hard Tail for a couple of reasons– one is that I really didn’t want a tremolo even though I could choose to block it (like Eric Clapton!) and the other is that I really like the feel of a maple neck.

The guitar was in immaculate shape and came with all of its swing tags and paperwork as well as the standard-issue plastic case for $549. This guitar lists for $1327.99, but you can get a new one for around $950 at online retailers. So, I feel like I got a pretty good deal.

60th Anniversary Badge

Even though this guitar has a 2005 serial number (starting with “Z5”) it was sold as a 2006 model and has the Fender 60th Anniversary badge on the back of the headstock which is pretty cool. Another unique aspect of this guitar is that Fender discontinued the American Hard Tail in 2006. No new Hard Tails in ’07. I contacted Fender to confirm this as I see that most of the online retailers are still selling them even though the online catalog at fender.com doesn’t list it as current product. According to Fender the only way to get a Hard Tail guitar would be to order the Fender Robert Cray Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar which is Mexican or to order the Eric Clapton Signature Strat, which has a blocked tremolo. Custom Shop Showmaster guitars come with Hard Tail as well.

This American Stratocaster is one of the post-2000 configurations. According to The Stratocaster Chronicles by Tom Wheeler, in the Summer of 2000 Fender discontinued the “American Standard” which had been in existence for 13 years and replaced it with the current “American Series.” The American Series was a new start to the Stratocaster line pulling together a set of features from the entire history of the Strat to that point making arguably the best Strat yet.

These features included the unanimously-agreed-superior pre-CBS 4-bolt neck, the Micro Tilt adjustment, the advanced shielding from the Standard, the 5-way pickup selector switch that dated back to 1977, “no-load” tone control which at “10” kills the tone pot on the middle pickup making for a vintage Strat tone, “Delta Tone” pickups where the middle pickup is wired in reverse of the other two providing a humbucking effect on certain switch settings, a single string tree on the head adding to tuning stability and improving tone, “rolled” neck edges which adds to the pleasant neck feel, non-veneered “original contour” body based on the 1950’s Strats, staggered pickup polepieces like the 1950’s Strats, and routing to provide the ability to add humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions. This final change eliminated the contraversial “swimming pool” routing where the area behind the pickguard was just a big hole to accomodate different pickup configurations.

Over the 53 years of the Stratocaster’s existence it has been subject to constant change– some of it good, some of it not good. In the American Series we see the benefits of a company looking back on the history of its products to pull a feature set together that I think ultimately makes an instrument that both honors its past, innovates and– most importantly– is great to play.

>pp 246-250, “Chapter 9: The New Millennium,”The Stratocaster Chronicles: Celebrating 50 Years of the Fender Strat, Tom Wheeler, 2004

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation

All Fender product names in this article are trademarks of Fender.

Check out the Fender Hard Tail Stratocasters at reverb.com!

The Court & Spark – Hearts (review)

I’ve been following the Court & Spark since I heard an interview segment on NPR back in 2001 around the time of their Bless You release. What I heard at the time was a logical progression from some of the other artists I had been listening to at the time. I was a big Neil Young fan, I liked Son Volt, the Jayhawks, Joe Henry, Jack Logan, and other artists who would unfortunately get lumped into the category of alt.country, or Americana. People love convenient labels, I guess.

Admittedly, the earler records from The Court & Spark (Ventura Whites, and to an extent Bless You) have many influences from the same place as other artists that share that category. Just take a look at the Byrds– were they country, or were they rock? Take a look at Neil Young– is he country, or is he rock, or folk for that matter? Is Tom Petty rock? He certainly can pull in some twang when desired. What about the Eagles? Even Fleetwood Mac with Lindsey Buckingham at the helm recorded a couple of songs that could be called country– check out “That’s Alright” from Mirage. A lot of Clapton’s output in the Seventies sure sounds like country (“Lay Down Sally,” “Promises”). The point here being that good bands and artists get great by stretching their boundaries. The more influences that an artist can draw from, the richer the work.

And, so it is with the Court & Spark’s new album Hearts (released May 2nd). Hearts is the sound of a band that is stretching its boundaries by diving a little more away from their rootsy or folksy sound and more towards a rock sound. In fact, in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, singer, lyricist and guitarist M.C. Taylor said that they were “being painted into a corner” and that Hearts is a reaction to that.

Hearts is an album that is unique and familiar both at the same time. It has the typical laid-back, mid-tempo feel that all of the Court & Spark records have. There is this underlying darkness that beckons, too. This is the first full-length album recorded by the band at their recording studio The Alabama Street Station. As is typical with bands who finally get their own space– they can spend time on the record without fear of racking up expensive studio time. This extra effort shows in the sometimes subtle, and sometimes not-so subtle sound textures used in the album. The band employs everything from toy pianos on the stomping “Your Mother Was the Lightning” to dulcimers and typewriters. Even with the sound effects on the tracks the album still has a consistent feel. The production values and layers of sound effects are not blips and bloops of electronica, but more classic studio type effects that you’d hear from Smile-period Beach Boys or the Beatles. The whole album sounds like it could have been recorded in 1971– that precarious hangover time after the end of the Summer of Love and the beginning of the next party that would be disco.

The record starts off with “Let’s Get High,” which does a great job of setting the tone for the rest of the record. A mellow, sexy affair with M.C. singing an invitation to “swim down, you’ve got beautiful fins.” This song reminds me of the best work of The The (what the hell happened to Matt Johnson anyway?). Lot’s of layered guitars and horns slathered over a sparce beat that firmly puts M.C.’s voice front and center. Most of this song sounds like it was processed through the spinning speaker of a Leslie. In fact, that effect is used all over the record.

The album transitions to the breezy “We Were All Uptown Rulers” which is included for your listening pleasure thanks to the permission of the band’s management. In typical fashion, it is nearly impossible to tell what this song is about. The only reference to “Uptown Rulers” I could find was a Meters album. The song seems sad and defeatist. Whomever this song is about, his other Uptown Ruler compatriots have been killed off, and he’s the last one. But, he’s standing his ground.

The accordion or melodeon along with the strings and whistling makes “Birmingham to Blackhorse Road We Wandered” sound distinctly Scottish folk. I have to say that M.C.’s lyrics, while obscure, do paint a picture. When he sings “Lay your diamond hand on me, lay your hands on me” I wonder if that means that the narrator’s love interest he “met at the change of the century” is married?

Hearts has four instrumental interludes spread throughout the album. They make for nice spacing between the tracks. The first one following “Birmingham” is “The Oyster Is A Wealthy Beast” takes advantage of bouncing strings under a solo lone violin. In the last 45 seconds it breaks down to the sounds of water lapping on the shore.

Clocking in at six minutes, the following track is the monumental centerpiece to the album, “Capaldi.” I can only assume that this is a tribute to the late Traffic member Jim Capaldi. It certainly sounds like a send-up of a Traffic song with its analog synth and arpeggiated guitar and bass guitar hook coated in fuzzy distortion.

“Capaldi” is followed by “A Milk White Flag”– the second of the four interludes. I notice that these tracks seem to fit together. They have a “music from another room” feel to them. Nice use of reverb. This is followed by “Berliners” which is a slow strumming ballad about what seems like a voyeuristic ghost pining for love of a living girl. Wandering tape noises under the guitars drive home the feeling of loss. We are greeted again by an instrumental called “Smoke Snigals” [s.i.c]. I guess appropriately titled considering the previous track begged for someone to “talk to me!”

When you listen to this with headphones you get to hear M.C. take a breath before starting the next track, “Mother Was the Lightning.” A slapping 2-step beat and tick-tock guitar propels this head-bobber. This song seems to be about a family doomed for disaster sung from the vantage point of a boyfriend. A universal theme, I think. The song winds out with toy piano and claps and Leslie tinged vocals.

“The High Life” starts out as slow waltz of a song that reminds me a bit of the classic “The Night Life.” Around 2:50 the song switches gears to a driving four-on-the-floor with layers of soaring guitars and keyboards that seems more like an early-Seventies progressive track by Yes. This is followed by the last of the instrumentals called “Gatesnakes.” This track is more of an exercise in layering sounds effects over a lone piano track reminding me a bit of Game Theory’s experimentation on Lolita Nation. After two minutes of that we move to the album closer called “The Ballad of Horselover Fat.” This is a spare vocals plus acoustic guitar that layers in other instruments as the song progresses to its chorus of “As a man I fade away.” Horselover Fat is the alter-ego of Sci-Fi writer Philip K. Dick that he used in one of his last novels VALIS, in 1981. I haven’t read this one, but I guess that it deals mostly with Dick’s search to understand God. A nice way to end this album, I feel.

In attempting to break the perception that they were a “country” act, the Court & Spark have recorded their most interesting and complete work to date. It’s time to catch the Spark of these high-heeled boys.

Download “We Were All Uptown Rulers”

Download a Live Version of “Capaldi”

Download a Live Version of “Your Mother was the Lightning”

Band photo by Peter Ellenby