Ron Gallo, the ringleader here, has quite a voice on 'im, kinda like Leon Russell after the bewhiskered upstart had been listening to Marc Bolan duetting with Dr. John on methedrine, and Gallo's backing ensembles tend to the brash side of rock, blues, and hot soul. The result is a unique blend of The Faces, Richie Kotzen, The Hoax, the Homewreckers, The Woes, and Stoneground or The Usual Suspects. That is to say, you're not likely to find the ilk of Whisper Down the Lane again any time soon.
The righteous cartoon art of Kathryn Mary Engle is both apposite and opposite. There is indeed the feel of the heartland crossed with a cathode burn of modernity longing for the old ways, here by way of tent revivalism after a bar crawl from here to the land of fire and brimstone and back again, but there's also a very generous Barbary Coast element sidling up to a Nashville gin bottle aesthetic. Gallo wields a backwoods whipsaw guitar like Ronnie Wood or some kind of Davendra Banhart abettor, and the recording is just foggy and muddy enough to make you feel the last offramp was for Bourbon Street not Crenshaw Boulevard.
There's a great deal of sanctified, though blearily swozzled, joy all through Whisper, the sort of viral emotion you can't shake once contracted. Horns and backing vocals thicken up the atmosphere, the mode seeming to be a 'drop in and jam' affair of likeminded antiquarians not all that concerned with precision while tossing up a gloriously harmonic vibe through knowing informality. This isn't an easy mode to pull off even half so well, but Gallo manages it with authority and verve. Now, if only the old J. Geils Band could've managed to figure things all out just as raucously way back when, then met up with the Incredible String Band and later Quicksilver Messenger Service—well, we would've had some killer antecedents for this, wouldn't we? In lieu, Toy Soldiers will have to content itself to join in the periphery of the weird folkers and be influential rather than derivative.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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