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November 24, 2017


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The Volebeats
Solitude (Safe House)

By: Gary "Pig" Gold

For their fourth full long-player, Detroit (by way of Whiskeytown's) Volebeats have set out to produce no less than a twelve-part, forty-minute "soundtrack" but to a movie you simply have to close your eyes and LISTEN to, as opposed to grapple with the kids down at the Multiplex for.

Beginning with the appropriately grandesque "Desert Song" (imagine The Feelies in Arizona, I kid you not!), SOLITUDE may very well occasionally ladle forth a tad too much of that linguini-Western flavoring. But its key instrumental passages --- "Kala" and "Denton Street" in particular --- are brave yet hazily assured exercises in the difficult-indeed art of letting one's notes do the talking. In fact, "Speedboat" is precisely the sort of razzle one previously encountered only on old Ventures and Hank Marvin platters, such be the playfulness of Matthew Smith and Bob McCreedy's guitars throughout. Then when they chose to actually open their mouths, the V-beats veer willfully between the Gibb-worthy baroque 'n' stroll of "Lonely Way To Go" clear cross to the shimmering near-pop of "Shannon" (someone get this beaut to Don and/or Phil Everly but FAST).

All told though, there are two songs which duly raise SOLITUDE to another lofty level altogether. First, "Beautiful Night" is without a doubt the most accomplished, and utterly heartfelt melody this band has ever produced (it's a true regal, gentle stunner of a number, folks!). And then there's the languidly luscious "Back In A Minute," which weds an early Jagger-Richard morning-after ballad touch against sonic washes worthy of Malcolm Burn -- not to mention his mentor Dan Lanois -- at both of their circa '91 finest. Only Blue Rodeo, to my ears, have hitherto succeeded so well in carrying on this "cosmic American music" legacy -- yes, that same handed deep down by dearly dead Gram Parsons.

All told, if all of the discs crossing my desk under the premise of "alt.country" these daze pushed their envelopes as playfully, yet as richly satisfyingly as SOLITUDE not for a second fails to, then I'd have to be inclined once again to admit there actually COULD still be some breath left in that most criminally misused of genres.

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