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CD REVIEW: Chemystry Set – Cobblestone Below My Feet
By Chip Withrow - 12/10/2006 - 10:33 AM EST

Artist: Band: Chemystry Set
Album: Cobblestone Below My Feet
CD Review: This eccentric, fun disc made me remember why I first fell in love with the Grateful Dead – at least until late in the band’s life, the Dead always tried to give you something no one else would or could.

So, listening to Chemystry Set’s ambitious Cobblestone Below My Feet in the same spirit of openness that made me appreciate the Dead’s Aoxomoxoa or Anthem of the Sun, I realized that Chemystry Set is one adventurously cool (or is it coolly adventurous?) bunch.

The title track veers between breakneck-paced and anthemically soulful (with a guitar solo seemingly influenced by Journey’s “Lights,” and that’s OK by me). “What We’ve Got” simmers into to a riveting jazz-funk duet between Baba Ndjhoni’s mandolin and Patty Hughes’ electric piano.

“One Never Knows” sounds like a good String Cheese Incident jam, only more techno and avant-garde. “Reinheitsgebot” is an even fierier instrumental, anchored by Joel Oppenheimer’s rolling and tumbling bass; Hughes raves on the piano, and Sven Eberlein counters with jabs of guitar.

“Hunger Down” is one groovy number, with a jangly Bo Diddley-esque vibe, heavy on bass and drums. Eberlein cuts loose on guitar over a catchy bubbling bass line, and the song ends on a chant-along jam.

“Tiger On a Roll” is another standout, a ballad that crests and falls, then ends on a powerful electric piano-led jam and finally some pretty, haunting organ chords.

Perhaps the most fun song on the album is "Sait Jamais." It's sung entirely in French and has a slinky, loping feel. The main piano riff sounds really familiar, like a variation on some soul hit from the mid-'70s.

The closing “Zydecongo Stomp” is sort of a trippier Little Feat-type rave-up. I dig the horns – they make it a leave-it-all-on-the-stage finale. The trumpet/guitar combo absolutely screams.

Another listen to this disc revealed how unique the vocals are, such as on “Cobblestone," "Tiger On a Roll,” and the Joni Mitchell-meets-Rusted Root "All of That." And, despite repeated listens, I have little idea what the heck the lyrics mean, but a theme throughout the disc seems to be people taking advantage of Earth’s resources (I think?).

Cobblestone, the band’s fifth CD, has a great communal feel to it. It is boldly genre-crossing and yields new discoveries with repeat listens.

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