Nolan McKelvey evidently spent a number of years with Boston's alt.country outfit The Benders and The Resophonics before heading west to Flagstaff AZ and the roots of the music he obviously loves. Nothing against Boston, which supports some of my favorite musicians of the moment including Ellis Paul and the up and coming Antje Duvekot, but country music just ain't in their genes. It is, fortunately, in McKelvey's genes and Modern Times is proof-positive. It may not be genius writing the music which ended up on this CD, but it sure is satisfying.
McKelvey took his latest band, 33, into the studio with songs written in a variety of styles, some downright surprising given the basic makeup of the band. The biggest is a killer 70s-style country song titled Closing All the Honky Tonks Down which is reminiscent of the West Coast country bands of that period. Sounding like one of the better San Diego bands of the period, Stagecoach, they key on vocal harmonies, a country-rock feel and some superb pedal steel playing to make their musical point. Directly afterward they take on the traditional Ain't No Grave, the arrangement credited to Kris Delmhorst and the Rebel Chickens, and come off sounding like an amped up Hot Rize doing bluegrass gospel. The slide work by assumably band guitarist Rand Anderson drives it hard and the vocal harmonies are topnotch. Fast forward to the end and they come up with the Eagles-like Mountainaire, a laid back country-rocker which could have easily come from Desperado, the most country-oriented of the Eagles' albums.
Eight more tracks inhabit Modern Times, all good. The sound quality and differing styles may give one the impression that they were recorded at different times, but that in this case is a positive for 33 are versatile within their genre, to say the least. Going from country & western to country rock to gospel is not always as easy as it seems, my friends, but for 33 it seems second nature. Given a chance, tracks on this album could make you a convert. Maybe even make you move out of Boston.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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