"A potpourri of genres and instruments from a talented family band." - Sept 3, 2020 J. Donald
Say that title as one word. Or make it three. This album showcases a variety of styles on this new 10 tune release from John, Wendy and Seth Andrews, aka Acoustic Solution. The cover lettering is assembled by John from driftwood sage on the sand at Frog Lake and the photo is from the same location. The wall is from an outbuilding at the Gansburg Ranch in Gardnerville, NV. These are all blended in photo-shop by Wendy. Remaining member Seth, in addition to his talents on multiple instruments, produces their bi-monthly gigs streamed live on Facebook. Everything is organic which maintains the tradition of earlier work.
This family trio and sometime duo, when Seth is off on his own projects, has been touring the Carson Valley and points west from Grass Valley to Markleeville and down to the Deepest Valley Theater near Lone Pine for decades. Their blend of acoustic/electric folk with forays into the title genres is what makes them so popular wherever they play. The comment I hear most often at their concerts is, “these guys are really a good fit here.”
As this new release demonstrates their original material is really well done and their covers are wonderful interpretations of songs that are appreciated by everyone from Boomer's to Gen Z'ers. And they'll often throw in something for the Silent Generation too.
This album leads with “The Cuckoo”, a 17th century English folk song, which has versions in many cultures. This electric-acoustic Celtic rendition has a nice bass line underpinning some solid bouzouki and banjo work by John with Wendy doing some nice violin fills and helping set rhythm on bodhran. Note that everyone can switch instruments mid-song - a trademark of their music. Even a metal pipe has a part. Listen for it.
A bouzouki, by the way, is a Greek instrument in the lute family adopted by the English and often referred to as an octave mandolin in this country. Note the lower tone which, like a banjo, can be loud. And yeah, I looked that up.
“Baby You're Going Down” was written by Wendy in 2003 and she does the vocals and rhythm guitar while John plays lead and pedal steel guitar. Seth again provides bass and drum.
“In Light of the Fax” is an upbeat tongue in cheek story of finding a note in the computer tray that suggests there might be some extra curricular activity going on and...well, listen to the words. This one fits the Americana label with John on 12 string and pedal steel, Wendy on mandolin and Seth again on the low end. The lyrics, by John from 1996, show some prescient thought for where hypertext transfer protocol has taken us.
“Higher Ground,” written by John in 2015, is a bluesy tune with some nice mandolin and bottleneck by Wendy and John respectively, with Seth on the bass and drums, and tells of a coming deluge so it might be urgent to head toward that title...literally, spiritually, or both.
“Carrickfergus” is a traditional song featuring Wendy on vocals and bodhran interspersed with some nice violin. Seth plays accordion and organ while John is on 12 string guitar, fretless bass, mandolin and vocal harmony. The tune comes from 16th century Ireland and has been covered practically everywhere the Irish have gone. It is the lament of an old man pining for the old country but instead drinking until his pallbearers as in “come all ye young men” are invited to “lay me down.”
On the back half of the album we have a truly inspirational tribute to country music with “Nashville Moon.” This song, written by John near the end of the last century, implies a deep appreciation for the huge contribution that the country music has been to the style and content of the Americana genre and indeed the very spirit of that city. The lyrics celebrate being in Nashville and lament having to leave and the music is pure and it doesn't have that shine so common to much of the pop from the Grand Ole Opry. Cerebral visuals and multiple string instruments transport the listener to the warm late spring with the moonlight coming through the magnolia as the sweet blossoms fall. If you're up for some clog dancing there's a banjo bit at the end that begs to be longer.
Switching up is what this band does and so here we go on “Angeles Crest 2 U” cruising Mulholland from Highland to Topanga Canyon, top down, on a warm evening of course, when is it not warm in LA, and this dreamy instrumental will take you there. It's magic whether you're familiar with the southland or not you'll get that feeling.
Next up is “Roundabout Groove” done completely by Seth. This is upbeat and Seth demonstrates his considerable talent on guitar, organ, piano, drums, bass, percussion and conga with his penchant for some nice downbeat and contrapuntal style. I like it.
“Knocking on Heaven's Door” needs no explainin' and is done here in reggae. This band covers Dylan really well. It fits with the times when John sings “long black cloud is comin' down' and shows that Dylan's songs, even when they're written for a 1973 movie, in this case, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, aptly describe the times.
On the last track, John wants to “Talk to that Girl” and that girl would be Wendy but for some reason the phone company won't cooperate which of course is frustrating John. You'll likely hear the whole amusing story at one of their shows. John's guitar and Seth on bottom end and vocal harmony along with a nice driving bass by Wendy propel this upbeat piece.
Take a look at their website at acousticsolutionmusic.com and peruse their song list of covers and originals. Note the list of places they've played. Impressive. Play some of their videos. And don't forget their Friday shows on Facebook. While here browse the Store link too and checkout their merch and albums. Social distancing puts bands in a difficult place. If you like what you see and hear send some support their way.