Artist: Band: Greenlight Caravan
Album: Mother Earth Revivial
Label: Smashing Grass Records
Sounds Like: Black Crowes, Stone Temple Pilots, Tower of Power
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Songs: Room 909, All These Midnight Colors, Pocket Full of Regrets, Spiders Streams and Kerosene
For my last review of the year, I am writing about perhaps the hardest rockin’ album I heard in 2008.
Combining Black Crowes’ soulful swagger with the metallic crunch of Stone Temple Pilots and the jazz-funk of Tower of Power, Greenlight Caravan has crafted a uniquely retro-but-fresh hybrid that fits right into 2009.
The opening title cut percolates with a percussion intro and then explodes into a wake-up call reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers.” Next is “Room 909,” a monstrous cut peppered with horns, punchy organ, and John David Fontenot’s stinging lead guitar.
“Evolver” slinkily waxes and wanes between lush layers of guitars and Mark Clark’s big, bluesy vocalizing. It ends in another searing Fontenot solo – my only qualm is that I wish Eugene Botts’ Hammond organ were louder in the mix on the outro.
There is plenty of keyboard on the smoking rocker “All These Midnight Colors” – pounding Jerry Lee Lewis piano licks abound here, and the background vocals are cool, too.
On a set full of great cuts, “Pocket Full of Regrets” is a standout. It shows the acoustic softer side of Clark’s songwriting (he penned or co-authored every song) and builds into a bold chorus. The lyrics are evocative, and musical psychedelia also rears its trippy head here.
“Resolution” showcases more nifty guitar work – funky rhythm and soaring leads. (Again, the organ could be louder, but I’m a Hammond nut.) “Lay Down Low” is danceable, horn-heavy fun with vocals that veer between almost-rap and falsetto sing-along.
“Idle Hands” is a quirky twist in the road – bouncy reggae-fied jazz-blues. Then comes another monstrous slab of soulful rock in “Song For Sister Green Eyes,” which features a deep-groove interlude.
“Spiders, Streams and Kerosene” (great title, isn’t it?) has a jangly Allman Brothers-style vibe. It’s propulsive, and the piano is prominent. Another of my favorites. After a great song like “Spiders,” closing the CD with two mellow tunes seems anti-climactic, but they are both pretty. “Free” is stripped down and melodic, and “Through the Blue” is a laid-back take on the rootsy feel of “Spiders.”
As I’ve stated in other reviews, one of the highest compliments I will pay an act is that I really want to see and hear them perform. Every song on Mother Earth Revival is a winner, and I would love to watch and listen to Greenlight Caravan bring them to life onstage.